Urges President to Reconsider His Veto
WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in support of S. 5, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 247-176. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
"Mr. Speaker, again today, the new majority in this House demonstrates its commitment to addressing the priorities of the American people, as we consider this legislation - the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act.
"Let us be clear: this bill (S. 5) has widespread bipartisan support in Congress and among the American people. It passed the Senate in April by a vote of 63 to 34. And, it is nearly identical to legislation this House passed in January by a bipartisan vote of 253 to 174.
"This legislation will pass again today - and thus the real question is: will the President heed the will of the American people - as expressed by bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress - and sign this bill? Or, will the President continue to defy the will of the American people?
"In short, Mr. Speaker, this legislation would increase the number of embryonic stem cell lines eligible for federally funded research.
"Current policy limits the use of federal funds for research only to those stem cell lines that existed when President Bush issued an Executive Order on August 9, 2001. This policy severely restricts the potential for life-saving breakthroughs because only 22 of those 78 stem cell lines are available for research - and a vast majority of those 22 lines are aged, contaminated or have been developed through obsolete methods.
"It cannot be stressed enough: this legislation only authorizes federal research funds for stem cell lines generated from embryos that would otherwise be discarded by fertility clinics. Thus, this legislation does not seek to destroy life - it seeks to preserve life.
"Former Senate Majority Leader, Doctor Bill Frist - who was once an opponent of efforts like this one, but who now supports them - has stated: "I strongly believe . . . That embryonic stem cells uniquely hold specific promise for some therapies and potential cures that adult stem cells cannot provide."
"Mr. Speaker, we have a moral obligation to provide our scientific community with the tools it needs to save lives, and this legislation accomplishes exactly that.
"Supporters of this bill understand that this is a difficult issue for many Americans and that it raises many questions that humanity has yet to adequately answer.
"And, that is why this legislation also directs HHS and the National Institutes of Health to issue ethical guidelines that will ensure the highest standards of scientific investigation.
"Furthermore, this bill directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct and support research on stem cells not derived from human embryos.
"The truth is - as demonstrated by Gallup polls taken since 2001 - the more Americans learn about the potential for stem cell research, the more they support it. Just last month, 65 percent of Americans reported that they supported expanding federal funding for stem cell research.
"This legislation represents the hope of millions of Americans who are waiting for us to take action.
"I strongly urge my colleagues to support this bill, as they have before. And, I urge the President to reconsider his veto when this bipartisan legislation reaches his desk."