Congress to Intervene Yet Again in Schiavo Case

Congress is apparently ready to pass a law moving the Schiavo case, and only the Schiavo case, to federal court.

Congress Announces Deal in Schiavo Case (AP)

Congressional leaders said Saturday they reached a compromise that would call on federal courts to decide Terri Schiavo’s fate, as emotions swelled outside the hospice where the brain-damaged woman spent her second day without a feeding tube.


Congressional leaders announced a compromise that would allow the brain-damaged woman’s case to be reviewed by federal courts that could restore her feeding tube. The legislation may be considered as early as Sunday, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said. “We should investigate every avenue before we take the life of a living human being,” said DeLay, R-Texas. “That’s the very least we can do for her.” The measure would effectively take Schiavo’s fate out of Florida state courts, where judges ordered the feeding tube removed on Friday, and allow Schiavo’s parents to take their case to a federal judge. DeLay said that would likely mean restoration of the feeding tube “for as long as this appeal endures.” Bush spokesman Jeanie Mamo said the White House remains “supportive of the efforts by congressional leaders.”

Despite assertions to the contrary, this isn’t technically a bill of attainder, since this isn’t a criminal case and the courts will ultimately decide the issue. Still, passing legislation that affects only a single person is a terrible abuse of legislative power.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. wavemaker says:

    This is just an incomprehensibly fatuous move. The notion that two bodies of Congress and the Executive branch would (if they do) pass a special act to assert federal jurisdiction in this matter (even if it is for a cause dear to them) would be an unprecedented move that only goes to fuel the suggestion that the Republicans have become drunk with their power.

    Let it go, guys. You gotta know where to pick your fights — even if you have the votes to win every time. That’s what leaders do.

  2. Maggie says:

    John Couey…CONVICTED sexual predator, alleged murderer of 9 yr old Jessica Lundford…monitored by police every ten minutes…ON SUICIDE WATCH.

    Terri Schiavo..INNOCENT .. allegedly in a permanent state of vegetation…monitored lovingly by her despondent parents …

    FUBAR !! Something is VERY WRONG here !!

  3. McGehee says:

    Still, passing legislation that affects only a single person is a terrible abuse of legislative power.

    I believe the original House version would not have had this defect. Leave it to the Senate to screw things up.

  4. John Burgess says:

    I think Congress is overstepping its authority here, principally in the matter of states’ rights, but leave that for another time.

    In fact, many, if not most of the bills passed by congress affect single people. Bills are passed almost daily granting X American citizenship, or recognizing Y for something s/he did. Take a look at any copy of Congressional Record and you’ll see that the majority of bills are not “big issue” things; they’re all stuff to keep constituents happy.

  5. Clint Lovell says:

    Gee, if they are doing this for just one person I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us poor unwashed peons when they take up Social Security.

    What a bunch of spineless, power-mad, media-centric political pimps they have become.

    What have we done? Why did we vote these gutless losers into office?

    It’s not like there’s a shortage of real crises awaiting them that can’t wait.

    Where are the Republicans? Where are the patriots? Where are the real Americans?

  6. Boyd says:

    I’m similarly troubled by Congress wielding its big stick here, but I continue to be baffled by the judge’s continuing rulings in this case.

    Since society is left with the choice between what continues to appear to be a sanctioned murder by withholding nourishment (and resultant dehydration) and Congress stepping in when no one else appears to be willing or able to, I’ve got to reluctantly support Congressional action.

  7. Lillie says:

    Giving a person food and drink is not keeping them alive by artificial means, we all need food and drink to live.
    And if her husband has two living wives,is this
    not a crime?Should not he be arrested?