Langevin Opens Stem Cells Dialogue with White House

Jul 1, 2005

(Warwick, R.I.)–Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) met with President George W. Bush’s top domestic advisor yesterday. The West Wing meeting was in response to a letter Langevin sent earlier this month requesting an audience with the President to discuss embryonic stem cell research.

Langevin described the meeting as a respectful exchange of ideas, with both sides appreciative for the opportunity to meet. Next, Langevin intends on pursuing a meeting with Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health, at the suggestion of the White House. Langevin is certain that yesterday’s meeting will not be his last interaction with the Administration on stem cell research.

“I was acutely aware of the President’s hesitation on this issue going into the meeting,” said Langevin. “It is clear that I need to continue to advocate for continued stem cell research. However, it is encouraging that the White House was willing to hear my strong reasons for securing more governmental support and research in this promising field.”

Langevin pushed for the meeting in an effort to urge the President to back legislation that would strengthen government involvement in stem cell research. The Senate is poised to begin debate on S. 471, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, the companion bill to H.R. 810. Langevin was a key supporter in the passage of H.R. 810 in U.S. House of Representatives on May 24.

“Millions of Americans are suffering from diseases and chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes and heart disease among others, for which this research holds the promise of treatments or cures,” said Langevin. “We simply must provide our nation’s scientists with the tools they need to proceed down this historic path.”

Claude Allen, assistant to the President for domestic policy, met with Langevin. Allen handles a diverse array of issues for the President, including healthcare. Prior to joining the White House, Allen was the deputy secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Nearly four years ago, the Bush Administration enacted restrictive regulations that allow federal funding for research solely on those stem cell lines derived prior to August 2001. Earlier this year, Langevin and Representatives Mike Castle (R-DE) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) introduced the bi-partisan Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which would direct the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health to fund research on stem cell lines derived after August 9, 2001. Under the bill, only those excess embryonic stem cells derived from in vitro fertilization and slated for destruction could be used for research, with government oversight to ensure ethical research procedures.