THE STEM CELL RESEARCH ADVANCEMENT ACT?
By Don C. Reed
Winston Churchill said, at a time when the Nazi bombs were falling on England, and it was by no means certain that the enemy could be defeated:
“Let us so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire last for a thousand years, men will still say, this was their finest hour.”
Folks, this is our hour. Time is short. If we are going to PROTECT stem cell research from having its federal funding banned—and maybe the entire field of embryonic stem cell research criminalized altogether—we need to pass a stem cell research protection act during the lame duck session of Congress, after they return from the election.
That means we have to organize now.
The bill will be called the Stem Cell Research Advancement Act, and it will be very similar to the laws passed by the preceding two Congresses, each by strong margins, only to be vetoed by former President George Bush, on ideological grounds.
We need protection against further ideological attacks.
It will be difficult–but the stem cell research community is rising to meet the challenge.
At the bottom of this page are two letters from the flagship organization of our movement: CAMR, the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research.
There are many fine groups I have supported over the years, too many to name here.
But there is only one CAMR. (visit www.camradvocacy.org)
It is the group of groups, nearly a hundred, large and small. Historically, it has been there virtually since the beginning of embryonic stem cell research. It was CAMR which organized the past two great attempts to pass the Stem Cell Research Act of 2005 and 2007—both of which passed the Congress and the Senate before being stopped by Mr. Bush—and it will be CAMR which takes us over the top.
In the House, we must pass the DeGette/Castle bill, HR 4808. The Senate counterpart is the Specter bill, SB 3766.
There will be adjustments made to both bills, to be sure they offer sufficient protections.
Here’s what matters. We face two giant threats.
First, the court case, Sherley v. Sebelius, which boils down to one wrong sentence: that it is the “unambiguous intent of Congress” that embryonic stem cell research should NOT be funded. This is false, and we must prove it so in law; the intent of Congress must be made absolutely plain—that the federal government IS authorized to fund embryonic stem cell research.
Secondly, some Republicans (not all: 58% of their membership supports embryonic stem cell research) but some among that party have called for a complete and total ban on embryonic stem cell research. We dare not forget that.
We need some insulation around our research, to prevent any change of political leadership from shutting down our field: stealing our hard-earned victories.
So, we need a law, and we need to organize for it now.
It will be difficult to rouse a Congress, of course. But is there anything about our enterprise which is NOT difficult? Every disease we are trying to fix has been called incurable, yet we fully intend to prevail, and we can do so here.
Three things we must do: first, contact our own Senator and Representative, and second, ask our groups to do the same, and third, our groups need to coordinate with CAMR.
CAMR is in Washington, and they know all the players. We in the grassroots groups need to work together, and CAMR is the time-tested way to do it.
Now here is a message from Lisa Hughes, President of CAMR, followed by my friend Jennifer Poulikidas, with the latest update, and a simple but crucial action request.
… it is critical that Congress act to ensure that federal funding for this important research is no longer vulnerable to political or ideological challenge.
CAMR urges all our member organizations to reach out to your own memberships quickly. Ask your members to immediately contact their House and Senate representatives in strong support of H.R. 4808 in the House and S. 3766 in the Senate. Ask for Representatives and Senators to cosponsor these bills and to insist on passing these bills this year.
As you know, during the 109th and 110th Congresses, the House and Senate both overwhelmingly passed bills explicitly authorizing the federal government to fund hESC research. Unfortunately, neither bill was signed into law, as President Bush chose to veto them.
The 111th Congress must now act: we call on Congress to pass a bill this year that explicitly authorizes the NIH to fund hESC research.
As Congress returns home until after the November elections, stem cell research advocates must reach out to their House and Senate Members and urge them to support stem cell research protective legislation.
The Stem Cell Research Advancement Acts – H.R. 4808 in the House and S. 3766 in the Senate – would both codify President Obama’s Executive Order ensuring NIH support for hESC research.
These bills provide a basis for protecting the NIH’s ability to continue to support the important scientific work that provides much hope to millions of patients and their families. As the bills progress, they may be further improved. We cannot wait to make our voices heard. Our action must begin now and continue relentlessly until Congress passes important stem cell legislation.
CAMR will continue to be in contact with you throughout the October recess, with advocacy updates and further requests. We need all your organizations and all your memberships to ignite the sense of urgency and passion that resulted in the Congressional victories during past Congresses. We cannot win without full involvement of all your great organizations.
And we must win.
Please reach out to your Members of Congress today and urge passage of important stem cell research legislation. Ask your House Representatives to cosponsor and pass H.R. 4808 and your Senators to cosponsor and pass S. 3766 this year. The “Stem Cell Research Advancement Act” will provide protection for NIH to continue to support the critical life-saving research that
provides hope to millions of patients and their families.
Congress has recently left Washington to campaign for the November elections. This is a perfect time to reach out to your Congressional representatives at home. They must hear from you loudly and clearly and often that stem cell research is a priority that you expect them to support
and act on. After the elections, Congress will return to Washington to take care of unfinished business. Stem cell research must be on their agenda.”
Lisa Hughes, President, CAMR
Now the latest from Jennifer Poulakidas, legislative VP of CAMR:
Dear CAMR Members:
Many thanks to those organizations which activated their memberships and encouraged contacts to Capitol Hill. We need these contacts to Congress to continue and, frankly, to dramatically increase.
We are reaching out to you again, to urge your continued engagement in this effort – and to suggest a slightly different approach over the next 10 days. Since nearly all Members of Congress are in their home states and districts right now, a big push to the district offices would be ideal.
Please ask your memberships to reach out to their Congressional representatives in their local offices. Most Congressional member websites have contact information for those local offices – phone and fax numbers (see below for helpful links*). Some of the district offices will transfer calls about legislation directly to DC, and that’s ok! What we need to do is get the phones in the local offices ringing off the hook about stem cell research, even if the DC offices ultimately take the comments.
We also need for people to go to town hall meetings and other campaign events and make the case in person to House and Senate Members that Congress take up stem cell research legislation during the “lame duck” session when Congress returns to DC after the elections.
The message continues to be the same:
Ask House Representatives to cosponsor and pass H.R. 4808 and Senators to cosponsor and pass S. 3766 this year. The “Stem Cell Research Advancement Act” will provide protection for NIH to continue to support the critical life-saving research that provides hope to millions of patients and their families.
The importance of this “local” activity cannot be overemphasized. If Members of Congress don’t hear directly from constituents that this is important to them, the possibility of Congress acting to protect important stem cell research during the short remainder of the 111th Congress is virtually nil.
As we move closer to Congress’ return to Washington, CAMR will be in touch with you at least weekly (and likely more often) with messages that we need for you to share with your memberships. We need to build up some serious momentum of constituent interest to have any chance of prevailing this year.
Thank you, as always, for your action and involvement.
Jennifer Poulakidas, CAMR, VP of Legislative Affairs
*Individuals can use the following websites to link to the web pages of their local U.S. House and Senate representatives. Once on a Member’s website, there will usually be a “contact” link. That link will have information about local offices, including phone and fax numbers.
LET’S GET THOSE LOCAL PHONES RINGING!!
Jennifer Poulakidas (firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.478.6053) for any questions or input.
For your convenience, here is a suggested alert to your membership:
“Please reach out to your Members of Congress today and urge passage of important stem cell research legislation. Ask your House Representatives to cosponsor and pass H.R. 4808 and your Senators to cosponsor and pass S. 3766 this year. The “Stem Cell Research Advancement Act” will provide protection for NIH to continue to support the critical life-saving research that provides hope to millions of patients and their families.
“Congress has recently left Washington to campaign for the November elections. This is a perfect time to reach out to your Congressional representatives at home. They must hear from you loudly and clearly and often that stem cell research is a priority that you expect them to support and act on. After the elections, Congress will return to Washington to take care of unfinished business. Stem cell research must be on their agenda.”