Washington - In a statement delivered on the Senate floor, United States Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today reiterated his strong support for embryonic stem cell research and urged Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist to allow a vote on the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. The bill would allow federal support of research that uses human embryonic stem cells regardless of the date on which the stem cells were derived from a human embryo, thus negating the Bush stem cell policy limitation on existing stem cell lines.
Neither Diabetes, Alzheimers, cancer, or Parkinsons boast a party affiliation, Menendez said. We hold the key to unlock that door, and it is shameful that we have let partisan politics stand in the way of medical progress. We owe it to our parents, our children, and our grandchildren to unlock that door.
Menendez joined last week with 38 Senate colleagues in urging the Republican leadership to call a vote on critical stem cell legislation. In a letter to Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist, lawmakers said the legislation, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, would end restrictions currently placed on stem cell research, thereby expanding the hope and promise of finding cures and therapies for spinal cord injuries, Alzheimers disease and other illnesses. President Bush has threatened to veto this legislation.
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The full text of Menendezs floor statement on stem cell research follows:
M. President, today we are in the middle of what is being called health week in the United States Senate, but rather than debating important life-saving, life-enhancing legislation that has bipartisan support and could actually deliver hope and promise to millions of Americans, the Republican leadership in the Senate has instead decided to continue their political-posturing, business-as-usual approach to governing.
Its no wonder the American public has become disillusioned with the leadership in Washington.
Instead of debating and passing stem cell legislation that will end suffering and extend lives, were again focusing on a partisan proposal to limit patients options when theyre harmed through medical malpractice.
Instead of passing stem cell legislation that will provide new treatments and cures for debilitating diseases such as Alzheimers, juvenile diabetes, spinal cord injuries, or cancer, were debating a bill that will actually eliminate the health coverage that many states currently provide to cover some of these same diseases.
Instead of wasting an entire week debating legislation that has no chance of passing, we owe it to the American people -- to the millions of Americans and their families suffering from life-altering disabilities and diseases -- to demonstrate our nations full commitment to finding a cure and doing all that we can to make their hopes and dreams come true.
It has been almost one year since the House of Representatives passed the Stem Cell Enhancement Act, and yet, the Senate still has not passed this vital legislation. I rise today to urge the Majority Leader to do the same and bring this important legislation to a vote in the Senate.
I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to vote in favor of the bill as a Member of the House, where we had broad, bipartisan support for the proposal. And I believe that same bipartisan support exists in the Senate, which makes it even more difficult to understand why we cant come together and do something meaningful for those who are suffering.
M. President, my support of stem cell research is partially a reflection of my home states commitment to innovation and discovery. In 2004, New Jersey became the second state in the nation to enact a law that specifically permits embryonic stem cell research. We know that embryonic stem cells have the unique ability to develop into virtually every cell and tissue in the body. And we know that numerous frozen embryos in fertility clinics remain unused by couples at the completion of their fertility treatments. Why shouldnt they be allowed to donate those embryos to federal research to save lives? We allow people to donate organs to save lives, why couldnt a couple, if they so choose, donate their frozen embryos instead of simply discarding them?
The great State of New Jersey offers more scientists, engineers and technicians per capita than any other state, and I am proud to represent the innovation and research taking place in New Jersey. Our state is known not only as the Garden State, but also as Americas Medicine Chest. But for our state and our country to continue to compete globally with health care breakthroughs, it is going to take more than just private and state support. It is going to take the support of our nation it is going to take leadership that looks beyond politics.
But, M. President, to me, like countless Americans and New Jerseyans, this issue is about more than our ability to compete as a nation. The promise of stem cell research is painfully personal. It means hope and promise hope that people like my mother who are suffering from Alzheimers disease might one day be cured from the loneliness and confusion caused by this horrible disease; and the promise that future generations of families will not have to see their loved ones enter a world of dementia that robs them of the best years of their lives.
We hold the key to unlock that door, and it is shameful that we have let partisan politics stand in the way of medical progress. We owe it to our parents, our children, and our grandchildren to unlock that door.
Diabetes, Alzheimers, cancer, Parkinsons, none of these diseases boast a party affiliation, and we cant let ours keep us from doing whats right.
Today we have an opportunity to do whats right, and its clear that the majority will again let that opportunity pass them by. I will continue to fight, along with many of my colleagues, to see that this bipartisan bill is debated on the Senate floor and becomes law. We can no longer afford to delay this bill when it holds the key to curing some of the most devastating and debilitating diseases of our day. As the bill waits in the wings of the Capitol, children and adults alike wait for the cure theyve been praying for.
This is health week, and what could better demonstrate our commitment to the health of this country than full federal support for embryonic stem cell research? This bill has the potential to make a profound and positive impact on the health of millions of Americans. All we need is the leadership to bring the bill to the floor for a vote for the humanity of our nation, and for the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters across this country who are suffering or watching a loved one suffer.
This bill means so much more than ending restrictions placed on stem cell research. This bill means hope and promise to countless Americans. This bill means that all the prayers for cures and therapies for spinal cord injuries, Alzheimers disease, diabetes, Parkinsons, cancer and countless other illnesses could be answered. This bill provides a promise that families might no longer have to see a loved one suffering. This bill means hope for the individuals challenged and fighting to live a life with dignity.
Stem cell research has vast potential for curing diseases, alleviating suffering and saving lives. I know my colleagues recognize the enormous potential of this research too, and it is time to clear the way for discovering new cures and therapies and bring this bill to a vote.