News Releases

Murray Stands Up for Stem Cell Research

Jul 17 2006

Senator says President's veto threat is wrong and short-sighted – veto would jeopardize cures, lives, and innovation

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) took to the Senate floor tonight to support the expansion of stem cell research and the hope it brings for millions of Americans and their families. In light of recent veto threats from the Administration, Murray also called on President Bush to stand with Congress in support of science, hope and the opportunity the expansion of this critical research brings.



"Families around the country are holding out hope that we will allow science to move forward and deliver on the promise of stem cell research. That's exactly what we should be doing. But today, the hands of American scientists are tied by political restrictions," Senator Murray said. "I believe we can expand stem cell research while still maintaining strict ethical safeguards. That's why I support passing H.R. 810."



In 2001, the Bush Administration promised that upwards of 60 stem cell lines could be available for research. To date, only 15 lines may be available. And it appears that all of these lines have contamination problems.



"The president's restrictions have held back American science and stalled promising research. It's time to correct that mistake and allow our country to make progress," Murray said. "In nearly 6 full years in office, President Bush has never once vetoed a bill. It's amazing to me that he would choose this bill - one offering basic hope and opportunity to so many Americans - for his first veto. The President is wrong on this issue, and his threatened veto is wrong."



The full transcript of Senator Murray's remarks on the floor follow:



"Mr. President, I rise in support of expanding stem cell research. This innovative research offers the chance to save lives.



Families around the country are holding out hope that we will allow science to move forward and deliver on the promise of stem cell research. That's exactly what we should be doing. But today, the hands of American scientists are tied by political restrictions. I believe we can expand stem cell research while still maintaining strict ethical safeguards. That's why I support passing H.R. 810.



In 2001, President Bush imposed restrictions on promising stem cell research. Since that time, we've learned that there aren't as many useful stem cell lines as the President suggested. The Bush Administration promised that 60 lines would be available for research. To date, only 15 lines may be available. It appears that all of these lines have contamination problems.



The president's restrictions have held back American science and stalled promising research. It's time to correct that mistake and allow our country to make progress.



Stem cell research is about improving medicine and saving lives. For patients with diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and Multiple Sclerosis, stem cell research holds promising potential to provide the tools to understand, treat, and someday cure these devastating illnesses.



I understand the challenges and frustration these diseases cause. When I was 15 years old, my dad was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. In a few short years, his illness got so bad that he couldn't work any more. For almost all of my life, my father was confined to a wheelchair. My dad’s illness had a profound impact on our entire family. My mom, who had stayed home to raise the family, had to take care of him. But she also needed to get a job so she could support our family. She got a job, but it wasn't enough to support seven kids and a husband with growing medical bills.



I can only imagine how our lives might have been different if there had been a cure for M.S. Back then, we didn't have the tools to find a cure. Today we do, but those tools are blocked by an ideological policy that puts politics over science. We can do better.



My dad’s challenges are similar to the struggles that millions of Americans and their families face every day. They deserve a chance. They deserve hope. That's why we cannot let the current restrictions stand.



A short time ago, I received a letter from a constituent in Mercer Island, Washington. He wrote: "My 17 year old son was recently involved in an automobile accident and is now paralyzed from the upper chest down. Stem Cell Research looks to be our brightest hope by far. Please help give him a chance to ride a bike, go for a hike and run with his friends again. Please, support Stem Cell Research."



Mr. President, as that father points out - this is about people. It is also about keeping our country on the cutting edge of science and research. I'm proud to represent a state that has a strong reputation for scientific research.



For our country to remain a leader in this promising field, our scientists and researchers need the support of our government. America should never take a backseat to other countries in the search for promising new cures. Unfortunately, the President’s stem cell research policy is tying the hands of science by limiting the number of lines eligible for federal funding. We can do better.



In fact, the majority of this Congress has been trying to correct the President's mistake for over a year now. HR 810 passed the House of Representatives thirteen months ago. Since that day, we've been fighting to bring the issue of stem cell research to the Senate floor. We wrote letters. We pleaded on this floor. And we asked the Republican leader numerous times for even a few hours to debate and pass this bipartisan bill. Our efforts to promote research and offer hope were denied at every turn.



But now our day has finally come. After more than a year of obstruction, we finally have a chance to offer hope to millions of patients and their families. On a bipartisan basis, I believe this bill will pass.



But of course that's not the whole story. Shortly after we received word that this bill would finally come to the floor, I was dismayed to see headlines announcing that Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political advisor, guaranteed a veto of this important bill. In nearly 6 full years in office, President Bush has never once vetoed a bill. It's amazing to me that he would choose this bill - one offering basic hope and opportunity to so many Americans - for his first veto. The President is wrong on this issue, and his threatened veto is wrong.



I'm here today first to pledge my support to this bill and call on my colleagues to support it. But next, I must call on them to ask the president - in no uncertain terms - to stand with us in support of hope and opportunity. Stand with us in support of medical research. Stand with us -- and more importantly -- with the millions of American waiting on a cure, in support of stem cell research.



Far too often in this administration, ideology has trumped research. Politics has been more important than science. With this bill, President Bush has a chance to change course and put people ahead of personal political ideology. I urge him to do the right thing. For our patients, their families, and the future of our nation’s research leadership, it is time for the U.S. Senate to pass HR 810 and for the President to sign it. Let's take the handcuffs off our scientists and let them find the cures that will save lives."