The Politics of the Schiavo Bill

So much one could say about the entire Schiavo mess — How can the GOP support this anti-federalist measure without any hint of shame? How can the same GOP that says federal power should be seen through he lens of a limited Commerce Clause and shrunken 14th Amendment claim that Congress has the power to act here? How can anyone care so much more about the feeding tube in a person with a liquefied cerebral cortex than about the feeding of hungry children both at home and abroad? And what about all the people who die for lack of medical care? Is the Schiavo bill a bill of attainder? Does the insertion of the Congress into an ongoing judicial matter violate separation of powers? — but other people are asking, or will ask, all these questions.

So here's my own addition to the pile: Why didn't the Senate democrats take advantage of this bill to add a rider to it? Say, a requirement that the CIA not use any methods of torture abroad that would be cruel and unusual punishment at home? Or anything else that ought, in principle, to be uncontroversial but would cause Rovian heartburn? Why just roll over without charging a price for quick action?

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11 Responses to The Politics of the Schiavo Bill

  1. nacho says:

    Very well stated… up until you have to tie this to torture! Dammit! Te were agreeing for a whole paragragh there. This time were on the wrong side of a states-rights issue. No matter which side you are on at this time, for the congress to overule a state court is a bad precedent that WILL COME BACK TO BITE US IN THE BUTT!
    For once I have to root that the Dems can beat back this measure somehow. I they had any party organization they could win this one. The republicans may not have the votes if the Dems had some discipline. if they all show up tonite and vote no they could beat this.

  2. Barsk says:

    I just want this whole thing to end, for the sake of the poor woman. If she honestly has a chance of recovering (I don’t think she does) then there is a significant chance that she can feel all of this (they do, afterall, say she can respond to stimuli). That means that she has gone through massive suffering as the tube has been removed three times and inserted three times (counting the original insertion). She has also been starved during the times the tube was removed. This poor woman is thus suffering because of this political fight. I realize that many will argue that suffering is better than being dead (as death is the only thing that cannot be undone) but if our leaders were honestly concerned about right to life/suicide issues they should have taken this issue up when the FIRST fight arose and not at this late juncture.

  3. thomas says:

    Yes. It is a bill of attainder. disgusting for the congress to attempt to adjudicate an individual case.
    blah, blah, blah.
    by what authority does congress presume to give the federal courts jurisdiction?
    i’ve heard the phrase “constitutional right to life” tossed around…but…forgive my ignorance…i’m not aware of any authority upon which they base their bill.

    the neo-cons are building their careers on the backs of the people that feel sympathy for schiavo’s family members that ask (democrats) to “not use this situation for political gain.”

    “Bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, and laws impairing the obligations of contracts, are contrary to the first principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound legislation. … The sober people of America are weary of the fluctuating policy which has directed the public councils. They have seen with regret and indignation that sudden changes and legislative interferences, in cases affecting personal rights, become jobs in the hands of enterprising and influential speculators, and snares to the more-industrious and less-informed part of the community.” James Madison, Federalist Number 44, 1788.

  4. ron obvious says:

    Why didn’t the Senate democrats…

    Look, a note of humor!
    B/C you have to be kidding about action from the Democrats.

  5. Doran Williams says:

    Democrats get on the offensive? Are you kidding? Maybe after Dean does some hard work, but not before.

  6. Anderson says:

    “Why didn’t the Dems attach a torture rider?”

    Because if they did, the Republicans—straight faced—would solemnly condemn them for *using this poor woman to make a political point.* And then the Dems’ heads would explode. So really, it’s self-interest keeping them from doing as Prof. Froomkin suggests.

  7. E-mart says:

    Spot-on, Anderson. And that’s exactly the play it would get in the news.

  8. jim says:

    Anderson is right. I would just add that if such a rider had been added in the Senate, a Conference Committee would have simply removed it. The delay attendant on having to convene a conference would probably have been minimal.

    One must recognise that the Republicans are in charge of the Congress. The only lever the Democrats have is the threat of a filibuster. It’s tempting to say, “Why don’t the Democrats . . .”, but useless unless you believe they should threaten a filibuster,.

  9. Joe says:

    One account suggested a single senator could have stopped this mess with a “hold.” Don’t know if that sort of regular rule of procedure would have worked here, but I think the House Democrats that decided to actually challenge this thing on the record (and the few House Republicans who voted with them) deserve our biggest respect.


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