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Vision Research Community Urges Senators to Pass HR 810, The Stem Cell Enhancement Act

Legislative Update
July 13, 2006

The Senate is scheduled to take up Stem Cell legislation the week of July 17, with voting expected on Tuesday, July 18. Although a group of three bills will be considered, only HR 810, The Stem Cell Advancement Act, is a real step forward in advancing embryonic stem cell research in the United States. In an agreement under which these bills have been brought to the Senate floor, all three must be passed by the Senate, none of the bills can be amended and 60 votes are needed to pass each. H.R. 810 was passed by the House in May 2005 and has been awaiting Senate action since that time.

The eye and vision research community has taken an active role in supporting HR 810 as the only pro-patient, pro-cure and pro-research bill of those that will be considered. Researchers have sent thousands of email letters of support for HR 810. NAEVR has sent letters to key Senators, including Majority Leader Sen. William Frist, M.D. (R-TN), Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) commending them for their courage and tenacity in bringing HR 810 to the Senate floor.

NAEVR has also sent a letter to every Senator urging their support for HR 810. In the letter, NAEVR acknowledged a May 1, 2006, letter to Sen. Hatch from former First Lady Nancy Reagan in which she implored the Senate to take action, stating that, "For those who are waiting every day for scientific progress to help their loved ones, the wait for Senate action has been difficult and very hard to comprehend."

Elizabeth Wenk, office of Cong. Mike Castle (R-DE), and Dr. Stephen Ryan
Elizabeth Wenk, office of Cong. Mike Castle (R-DE), and Dr. Stephen Ryan
On July 11, NAEVR Board President Stephen Ryan, M.D. (Doheny Eye Institute/University of Southern California) made a series of Capitol Hill visits, including the office of Cong. Mike Castle (R-DE), House co-sponsor of HR 810 with Cong. Diana DeGette. NAEVR reported to Cong. Castle’s office on the steps that it was taking to support Senate passage of the bill.

NAEVR has also been working with the larger medical research advocacy community to present a united front in support of stem cell research legislation. NAEVR will join hundreds of other groups as a signatory on a letter delivered to all Senate offices on July 17 in support of HR 810 just as Senate floor debate on the trio of bills commences.