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Schneider: 'Congress is not settling the issue'


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CNN political analyst Bill Schneider
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Following the Senate's unanimous passage, the House of Representatives, after three hours of debate, passed a bill that moved jurisdiction of the Terri Schiavo case from Florida state courts to the federal court system.

CNN's Kyra Phillips spoke with political analyst Bill Schneider about what members of Congress may have been thinking when casting their vote.

PHILLIPS: So when push comes to shove, everything that we saw take place last night, can Congress actually settle this issue?

SCHNEIDER: Well, Congress is not settling the issue. What they're doing is they're turning it over to the federal courts and requiring that the federal courts, not just the Florida state courts, but the federal courts, start this process over again and review the entire case. It's allowing Terri Schiavo's parents and brother and sister to bring the case before a federal court to get an additional hearing. Congress cannot order that the feeding tube be reinserted. That's up to the courts.

PHILLIPS: All right. Bill, you've come out, you've told me, look, this is all political. Everything that we're observing here is political. You brought up a very interesting point, and that is the continuation of these grievances against judges. How does that play into this?

SCHNEIDER: Well, we saw signs last night in Florida among the people who were supporting the congressional action. They said stop renegade judges. They said starve the judicial system. This case, which was a case of a state court ordering that the feeding tube be removed, this is the latest in a long series of grievances that go back more than 30 years, to the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 allowing abortion rights, giving them constitutional protection.

Religious conservatives and other conservatives have protested judicial activism for all these decades on what issues? Abortion, school prayer, sex education, pornography, same-sex marriage, the mandated teaching of evolution, and now, of course, the issue of end-of-life decisions and assisted suicide. Again and again and again, they see the judiciary as power-grabbing activists, and most importantly, violating their own personal religious liberties. And this is the latest in those grievances that have been brewing for decades.

PHILLIPS: So in addition to that, just how political this whole issue has become, Bill -- do you think that members of Congress thought, boy, I better show up and vote? It's better than not showing up because I could get persecuted for not taking any sort of step here.

SCHNEIDER: Well, some did. Republicans showed up in overwhelming numbers and voted almost unanimously for the bill that turns the case over to a federal court. Why? Well, probably a lot of them are very fearful of having a primary opponent from the conservatives running against them in the Republican primary, which is a very conservative electorate.

Now Democrats made a different calculation. The Democrats are also a bit defensive and somewhat fearful. Those who voted actually split almost evenly for and against the bill. A lot of them are afraid of having an opponent run against them in next year's election. And the opponents' theme would be, you voted to kill Terri Schiavo. They don't want to have that. So a lot of them voted for it. But the decision of many Democrats, about half the Democrats in the House, was just not to show up at all. They don't want to have anything to do with this issue.

PHILLIPS: Bill Schneider, thank you so much.


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