Saturday, March 19, 2005

Rep. Mark Kennedy on Congressional Action for Terri Schiavo

I asked Congressman Mark Kennedy about the Terri Schiavo case this morning. He made two important points.

The first is that the House leadership has put members on alert to be prepared to return to Washington for action Monday or Tuesday of next week. This is encouraging, since I expected the Easter break to keep them away.

The second point is more frustrating. He said that there are enough votes in both the House and Senate to pass something protecting Schiavo's life, but their bills could not be reconciled before Friday's recess.

I went out to the House and Senate websites to investigate their respective actions.

The House version, passed on Wednesday March 16, is called the Protection of Incapacitated Persons Act of 2005. Here is the text of the bill passed by the House: HR 1332

According to Congressman Kennedy, The Senate wanted more time to deliberate this bill, and instead, on Thursday March 17, passed an act restricted to Terri Schiavo's case alone: S. 653

The Senate Act is a bit puzzling. A casual reading suggests that the Senate could only gain consensus about Terri Schiavo's case alone. I can't quite figure out what language in HR 1332 is the sticking point. It's not a long or complicated bill, and I haven't found any specific objections to HR 1332 by any Senator who agrees with S. 653.

In any case, Congressman Kennedy seemed optimistic that Congress would get something passed to save Terri's life.


Anonymous Lee Trumble said...

Do we have a Constitution anymore? Have Americans become so docile and ignorant that they cannot see how this action undermines one of the basic principles of our government: Separation of powers? This brash and illegal action could only be perpetrated by a Congress that has no regard for Constitutional principles. They know that their action will go unquestioned not because of a support of the people but because they are too distracted to offer any objections.

One other point: I am certain if you removed the fallacies of Judeo-Christian principles from the controversy, a solid majority of the people asked would agree that she is better off dead.

10:58 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Sorry Lee. Your comments are more thoughtful than most. But you're flat out wrong.

The Congressional action here doesn't violate separation of powers any more than allowing felons convicted in state court to appeal on a civil rights basis to federal court - something that happens all the time.

Also, kindly spell out the "fallacies of Judeo-Christian principles" before you ask for my agreement next time. I'm inclined to give those principles more weight than your personal opinion, no offense.

I'm even inclined to give those principles more weight than any poll conducted among healthy people imagining themselves permanently disabled (please surpress your gasp).

11:26 PM  
Anonymous Spartacusl said...

Herewith a summary of the law as enacted. It clearly violates the separation of powers in effectively discarding the 7 years of litigation in the state courts incl. Fla Supreme Ct. US Supreme had twice refused to override denied cert. Right wingers who decry activist judges applaud an activist Congress & Pres. who intrude in a family's private grief. As to felons appealing to Fed Ct. that'true after all State Ct. actions are exhausted due to its being a matter of liberty. If you were divorced and denied visitation to your children just see how far your request for Federal Ct. review would get you.

(This measure has not been amended since it was introduced. The expanded summary of the Senate passed version is repeated here.)
Grants jurisdiction to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida to hear, determine, and render judgment on a suit or claim by or on behalf of Theresa Marie Schiavo (Ms. Schiavo) for the alleged violation of any right of hers under the U.S. Constitution or laws relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life.
Grants standing to any parent of Ms. Schiavo to bring a suit under this Act. Allows suit to be brought against any other person who: (1) was a party to State court proceedings relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain Ms. Schiavo's life; or (2) may act pursuant to a State court order authorizing or directing the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life.
Declares that in such a suit the District Court shall determine de novo any claim of a violation of any right of Ms. Schiavo's within the scope of this Act, notwithstanding any prior State court determination and regardless of whether such a claim has previously been raised, considered, or decided in State court proceedings. Directs the District Court to entertain and determine the suit without any delay or abstention in favor of State court proceedings, and regardless of whether remedies available in the State courts have been exhausted.
Declares that, notwithstanding any other time limitation, any suit or claim under this Act shall be timely if filed within 30 days after its date of enactment.
Declares that nothing in this Act shall be construed to: (1) create substantive rights not otherwise secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States or of the several States; (2) confer additional jurisdiction on any court to consider any claim related to assisting suicide, or a State law regarding assisting suicide; or (3) constitute a precedent with respect to future legislation.
States that nothing in this Act shall affect the rights of any person under the Patient Self-Determination Act of 1990.
Declares the sense of Congress that the 109th Congress should consider policies regarding the status and legal rights of incapacitated individuals who are incapable of making decisions concerning the provision, withholding, or withdrawal of foods, fluid, or medical care.

9:17 PM  

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