Seventeen Hours into the First 100 Hour Legislative Marathon: 2 Down, 4 To Go
WASHINGTON Only a week has passed since the 110th Congress took their seats and southern Maryland's Steny H. Hoyer is leading the charge to complete an aggressive legislative To-Do List during the first 100 hours. On Jan. 3, Hoyer announced six key pieces of legislation that House Democrats want to see enacted during this time frame. They include: implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations, increase the minimum wage, expand stem cell research, allow negotiation for lower prescription drug costs, cut interest rates on student loans, and end subsidies for big oil and invest in renewable energy.
Just yesterday, H.R. 2, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, passed on the floor with bipartisan support--82 of 202 Republicans voted for the bill. The act will increase the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over the next two years. Maryland already has a state minimum wage of $6.15 per hour.
The Democrats are right on schedule according to the timeline they released on Jan. 3. Today House Majority Leader Hoyer spoke on the House Floor in support of H.R. 3, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Mr. Speaker, today, for the third consecutive day in this 110th Congress, the new Democratic Majority in the House is considering very important legislation that will pass on a bipartisan basis.
On Tuesday, we passed legislation implementing the 9/11 Commission recommendations by a vote of 299 to 128. Yesterday, we passed a long-overdue increase in the federal minimum wage by a vote of 315 to 116. And today, we will pass H.R. 3 the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007' legislation offered again by the gentlewoman from Colorado (Ms. DeGette) and the gentleman from Delaware (Mr. Castle).
Mr. Speaker, it is not a bold prediction to say that this legislation will pass today, because this House approved identical legislation last May by a vote of 238 to 194, with 50 Republicans joining 187 Democrats and one Independent. The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 63 to 37, before the President vetoed it in July.
In short, the DeGette-Castle bill 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.
I believe this legislation does not seek to destroy life it seeks to preserve life. In fact, former Senate Majority Leader, Dr. Bill Frist, who formerly opposed this legislation but now supports it, 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.
I believe we have a moral obligation to provide our scientific community with the tools it needs to save lives, and this legislation accomplishes exactly that.
Now, we understand this is a difficult issue for many Americans and that it raises many questions that humanity has yet to adequately answer. That is why this legislation also directs the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health to issue ethical guidelines that will ensure the highest standards of scientific investigation.
Mr. Speaker, this legislation enjoys the overwhelming support of Members of this Congress and the American people many of whom are affected by diseases such as ALS, Alzheimers and Parkinsons and injuries of the spinal cord and nervous system.
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.