Bush returns to Washington to sign the Terri Schiavo Bill
The Associated Press has the following news:
Compromise Reached on Measure to Allow Federal Court Review of Schiavo Case, Resume Feeding; Bush Returning to Washington Early
WASHINGTON (AP) - Congressional leaders hoped a deal reached Saturday would clear the way for a brain-damaged woman to resume being fed while a federal court reviews the right-to-die battle between her parents and her husband.
President Bush changed his schedule to return to Washington from his Texas ranch on Sunday to be on hand to sign the legislation.
"Everyone recognizes that time is important here," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said in announcing the president's plans Saturday evening in Texas. "This is about defending life."
"I'm pleased to announce that House and Senate Republican leadership have reached an agreement on a legislative solution," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee said Saturday at the start of a brief Senate session.
"We are confident this compromise addresses everyone's concerns, we are confident it will provide Mrs. Schiavo a clear and appropriate avenue for appeal in federal court, and most importantly, we are confident this compromise will restore nutrition and hydration to Mrs. Schiavo as long as that appeal endures," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said earlier at a news conference.
House approval was hoped for Sunday when the House planned to meet in a special session, he said.
"We're elated primarily that they put politics to one side and they're concentrating on the issue of saving Terri's life," Schiavo's father, Bob Schindler, said late Saturday.
The Senate session Saturday evening was convened to formally give necessary permission for the House to meet Sunday, when it otherwise would be in recess under a previously passed Easter recess resolution.
The plan is for the House to act on the two-page bill Sunday, or just after midnight Monday morning if someone objects to the bill being taken up on an expedited basis Sunday.
Frist said the Senate then would act on the House legislation Sunday, assuming it passes the House as envisioned, and rush the bill to the president for signature into law. Otherwise, he said the Senate will meet again after the House acts early Monday.
At a news conference after the Senate session Saturday, Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, thanked the Democratic leadership for cooperating on an expedited procedure to consider the legislation. He singled out Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Carl Levin of Michigan as two who had reservations about the bill, but agreed not to use Senate rules or traditions to block its consideration.
It takes only a majority of those present and voting to pass a bill in either the House or Senate, meaning a handful of members - a dozen or less - could be on hand for floor action.
As to the possibility Schiavo could die if a federal judge did not quickly order her feeding restored once the case landed in federal jurisdiction, Santorum said that would be "irresponsible abuse of the judge's authority" and that "I'm not going to speculate on what I think is a remote possibility."
First word of the unfolding compromise came Saturday from Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., who said: "What we've tried to achieve here is to give Terri Schiavo and her representatives and part of her family that believes strongly that she should be given an opportunity to live, that they have an opportunity to bring that case ... that the federal court be given a chance to review it."
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, appeared at the news conference with Santorum and others in support of the compromise. Harkin has favored broader legislation that would apply to similar situations beyond the Schiavo case.
The compromise was similar to a Senate bill passed Thursday that would let a federal court review the state judge's decision in the Schiavo case. House Republicans had favored broader legislation that applied similar cases that questioned the legality of withholding food or medical treatment from people who are incapacitated.
Schiavo's feeding tube was disconnected Friday afternoon. Schiavo, 41, could linger for one to two weeks if no one intercedes and gets the tube reinserted.
Michael Schiavo urged Congress to stay out of the matter, saying he is just trying to carry out his wife's wishes.
"I feel like the government has just trampled all over my personal life," he said on CNN's "Larry King Live" on Friday. "It is uncomprehensible that a government can walk all over somebody's private judicial matter, because of their own personal feelings."
GOP Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the measure was "narrowly targeted" and did not set a precedent.
For a decade, a feud has raged between Schiavo's husband, Michael, and her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, who have tried to oust Michael Schiavo as their daughter's guardian and keep in place the tube that has kept her alive for more than 15 years.
Michael Schiavo says his wife told him she would not want to be kept alive artificially. Her parents dispute that, saying she could get better and that their daughter has laughed, cried, smiled and responded to their voices.
On Friday, Republicans used their subpoena power to demand that Schiavo be brought before a congressional hearing, with lawmakers saying that removing the tube amounted to "barbarism."
The Florida judge presiding over the case rejected the request from House lawyers to delay the tube's removal. Late Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court, without comment, denied an emergency request from the House committee that issued the subpoenas to reinsert Schiavo's feeding tube while the committee filed appeals in the lower courts to have its subpoenas recognized.