Schiavo legislation stalls in House, members called back for vote

Schiavo legislation stalls in House, members called back for vote

[JURIST] US House Republicans failed Sunday afternoon to pass legislation that would prolong the life of Terri Schiavo, prompting a call for lawmakers who had just departed for Easter recess to return to Washington for a later vote that could come as early as the small hours of Monday morning. Sunday approval of the legislation could only have occurred with a unanimous vote of those present. House Speaker Dennis Hastert called a recess [House floor status] after it became apparent that a bill would not go through. Republicans supporting the bill must now assemble a quorum of 218 members to re-consider the issue. If the measure passes in the House and Senate, President Bush has promised to sign it. AP has more.

The bill being considered – the text of which is not yet publicly available and has not been fully finalized, although it has been described as a variant of more limited legislation that passed the Senate Thursday [JURIST Gazette citation] – would apply only to Terri Schiavo and would allow a federal court to review de novo the decision of a Florida state court to remove the feeding tube that was keeping her alive. If the congressional action is approved, attorneys for Schiavo's parents would likely seek a federal court order to have the feeding tube reinserted while the federal court deliberates. A habeas corpus action, denied by a federal court in Florida Friday [JURIST Gazette citation], is still pending in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court asked for additional briefs [Schindlers' supplemental brief, PDF] to be submitted before noon on Sunday. The Tampa Tribune has local coverage.

3:55 PM ET – House Democrats held a press conference on the Schiavo legislation Sunday afternoon after the House went into recess, assailing the bill before the House as a breach of separation of powers and an attack on the Florida courts. Watch recorded video via C-SPAN [alternate source here with part 2 via the Political Teen weblog]. House Republicans also held a press conference in support of the legislation – watch recorded video via C-SPAN.

4:05 PM ET – The transcript of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's floor statement from the brief Senate session at 2 PM this afternoon [also ending in recess] is now available online:

Shortly, we will stand in recess subject to the call of the chair. This action will allow the Senate to come back into session at a moment’s notice to receive the Terri Schiavo bill from the House of Representatives. The Senate will remain here throughout the afternoon and late into the evening as necessary to act immediately once its ready. Time is of the essence. Terri Schiavo is being denied life-saving nutrition this very moment.

Let me summarize again for everyone what the agreed upon legislation does. Under this legislation, Terri Schiavo will have another chance. She will have another opportunity to live. The bill allows Terri’s case to be heard in federal court. More specifically, it allows a federal district judge to consider a claim on behalf of Terri Schiavo for alleged violations of Constitutional rights or federal laws relating to the withholding of food, water or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life.

Read the full text of Frist's statement.