Washington, D.C. – The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a joint hearing with the Committee on the Judiciary to evaluate the effectiveness of the Project Bioshield Act. The Act addressed many of the perceived obstacles and addressed development of production of drugs and vaccines intended to protect Americans from a biological, chemical, radiological, or nuclear attack.
U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., a senior member of the HELP committee, was an original co-sponsor of the Bioshield Act. He chaired part of the hearing and gave the following statement.
Opening Statement of Senator Michael B. Enzi
Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Joint Hearing with the Committee on the Judiciary
"BioShield II: Responding to an Ever-Changing Threat"
October 6, 2004
Protecting America from bioterrorism will require the best efforts of both government and the private sector, so I commend Chairmen Gregg and Hatch for calling this hearing to see what more needs to be done to make America as safe as possible from this threat.
The legislation to enact President Bush's Project Bioshield, which Congress passed into law in July, is an important first step toward safeguarding our homeland and our citizens from a bioterror attack and its aftermath. I am proud to have cosponsored that legislation and am committed to seeing that the law improves our biodefense capabilities. My only regret is that it took more than a year for the full Senate to approve this bill after the HELP Committee reported it to the floor with unanimous support.
Looking forward, it is critical for these two committees to work together to build upon Project Bioshield. Project Bioshield was never intended to address all of the obstacles to the development of bioterror countermeasures. It was intended simply to establish a stable and guaranteed source of federal financing for the purchase of countermeasures developed by private industry, since most of these products don't have other significant commercial applications.
Now that we have established this financing mechanism, it's time that we address the other roadblocks that impede our progress on bioterrorism countermeasures. Chairman Hatch and Senator Lieberman have developed a bill that aims to address a wide variety of outstanding concerns that must be addressed, from liability protections to intellectual property incentives. I look forward to hearing Senator Lieberman discuss his bill today.
Senator Lieberman will testify today that we need to engage the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries in our efforts to spur the development of bioterror countermeasures. I wholeheartedly agree with Senator Lieberman that we will not be able to address fully this threat without tapping the ingenuity that resides in these innovative industries. We need their input and involvement as we take the next steps toward protecting America from bioterrorism.
Again, I thank the Chairmen and the Ranking Members as well for coming together to refocus these committees on our biodefense capabilities. I look forward to working within the HELP Committee and with the Judiciary Committee as we build a strong national biodefense.