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Terri Schiavo Vote in Congress Incites Emotional Debate Over Morals and the Role of Congress; 'Inside Buzz'

Aired March 21, 2005 - 15:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: Terri Schiavo's fate in the hands of a federal judge after President Bush and Congress intervened overnight.

SUZANNE VITADAMO, TERRI SCHIAVO'S SISTER: We're very hopeful, very hopeful that the federal courts will follow the will of Congress and save my sister's life.

MICHAEL SCHIAVO, TERRI SCHIAVO'S HUSBAND: This is about Terri Schiavo, not the government, not President Bush and Governor Bush. They should be ashamed of themselves.

ANNOUNCER: We'll bring you the latest developments in this life- and-death saga.

Did congressional Republicans do the right thing or cross a critical line? That debate goes on.

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: You will have hundreds of members of Congress making a medical decision about which we know nothing, and in which we should not be involved.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To say that Congress should not get involved in situations where the lives of people are involved means that this body should just go home and fold up.



JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.

At this hour in a courtroom in Tampa, a federal judge is hearing arguments on whether to reinsert Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. Her parents filed suit asking for a restraining order last night, citing emergency legislation passed by the Congress to keep the brain-damaged Florida woman alive. The two-page bill signed by the president overnight transfers the case to the federal courts. Today, Mr. Bush spoke publicly about the case for the first time since Congress decided to get involved.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Democrats and Republicans in Congress came together last night to give Terri Schiavo's parents another opportunity to save their daughter's life.


This is a complex case with serious issues. But in extraordinary circumstances like this, it is wise to always err on the side of life.


WOODRUFF: However, lawyers for Schiavo's husband, Michael, are arguing that the law Mr. Bush signed is unconstitutional. At a Florida hospice, Terri Schiavo has gone three days without food or water. A state court judge ordered her feeding tube removed on Friday, siding with her husband and against her parents. Whatever the outcome of today's hearing, the losing side is expected to appeal to a higher federal court in Atlanta which has refused to intervene until the Tampa judge issues his ruling.

Well, let's talk more now about the hearing under way in Tampa and the legal issues at play with Paul Rothstein of the Georgetown University Law Center.

Paul Rothstein, first of all, what is it that this judge, this federal judge, is looking at in this case that all the other judges who have had a look at it have not seen?

PROF. PAUL ROTHSTEIN, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY LAW CENTER: This judge has three issues to decide, all of them problematic, and he'll do it in this order... first of all, he has to decide whether something should be done to temporarily preserve the status quo while he's deciding the remaining two issues, the big issues. That is, to prevent the health of Terri Schiavo from deteriorating.

Then the next issue that he has to decide...

WOODRUFF: That's putting the feeding tube back in?

ROTHSTEIN: That's right, at least temporarily.


ROTHSTEIN: And then the next issue he has to decide is this, did Congress properly and constitutionally open the federal court doors to this case or not? And there's some severe questions about that, where Congress takes on sort of a judicial function and overrides other courts. And there's some federal issues.

And then the third issue is the $64 million question, which is, have any of Terri Schiavo's rights -- constitutional rights actually been infringed, her right to have life and liberty and not have them deprived without due process of law, her religious rights? She is a Catholic. It all depends on if there are any expressions of hers and it depends on a lot of Supreme Court precedent.

WOODRUFF: I don't know how much you've had a chance to look at the case law, but how much of a precedent is there out there for this judge to rely on as he makes a decision? ROTHSTEIN: Well, I did have a chance to look at all the right to die and right to life cases because I happen to have written an article for the Supreme Court encyclopedia on this very question. And first of all, on opening the court doors, the federal court doors, which is a slightly different matter, that's very problematic.

There's something called bills of attainder. This isn't exactly that. But when Congress gets to specific about just a specific case, it's sort of an infringement of judicial power. But on the -- sorry. Go ahead.

WOODRUFF: No, I was going to say, well, what about on the question of infringing on her rights?

ROTHSTEIN: On the question of infringing on her rights, which is what this article I wrote involves, as I read the cases, she is entitled to -- and only to this, to have due process. That is, an orderly careful process in deciding whether or not to remove her feeding tubes in the absence of her having expressed herself clearly one way or the other, which is a message for the viewers to express yourself clearly. Because then she has a right to have her wishes respected.

WOODRUFF: And, of course, her husband's attorneys say she has had that due process, that she's had extraordinary due process.

ROTHSTEIN: And that may well be what the court decides, that none of her rights are being infringed here. Because Congress didn't tell the federal court how to decide this. Congress just told the federal courts, open your doors.

They did not say, you should decide whether or not -- that you should decide that she had her constitutional rights infringed and tell the court how to decide it. So the federal court may well reach the exact same decision as all the other courts that have looked at it, at that, and they may say that she's had due process and a careful look.

WOODRUFF: Well, we are certainly waiting and we are certainly watching. Professor Paul Rothstein, it's very good to see you again. Thanks so much.

ROTHSTEIN: Thanks very much, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Now we turn to Capitol Hill and the ongoing debate about Congress intervention in the Schiavo case and what it means legally and politically. Here first, our congressional correspondent, Ed Henry.

Hi, Ed.


Of course it's extremely rare for Congress to come in and work on a Sunday. It was extraordinary for them to come in on Palm Sunday, work in the middle of the night, have lawmakers flying if from all around the world around midnight just to make this vote. And that's why House Republicans are now expressing anger with this U.S. district judge, James Whittemore, telling CNN that they believe he's not moving quickly enough.

They feel that Congress acted in the middle of the night so that this judge could act late this morning. They're frustrated this hearing was only scheduled this hour. They feel it could have been done a lot earlier.

One senior House GOP aide telling CNN there's frustration about the fact that "this woman is dying and we have a judge who is sitting on his hands." Another top GOP aide saying that president of the United States, of course, also flew from Texas all the way back late last night to Washington just to sign this into law and then back to Arizona as previously scheduled today.

Republican aides very frustrated. And as House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said very early this morning, every moment counts.


REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: A young woman in Florida is being dehydrated and starved to death. For 58 long hours her mouth has been parched and her -- and her hunger pangs have been throbbing. If we do not act, she will die of thirst.


HENRY: Republicans say that this legislation was motivated by that very principle, the sanctity of life. The Democrats insist otherwise, pointing to a leaked Republican memo that came out over the weekend suggesting that, in fact, Republicans are privately very anxious and they believe that, in fact, this will help rally conservative support heading into the 2000 elections. Here's Congressman John Lewis.


REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: This is demagoguery! This is a step in where we have no business. This is walking where the angels fear to tread.

We are playing with a young woman's life for the sake of politics. This is not about values. This is not about religion. It is for political gain with the next election in mind.


HENRY: But a new ABC News poll suggesting that if the Republicans wanted to get some political gains, they're not getting it in the short term.

This poll shows that 60 percent oppose the new law, 35 percent support, 70 percent believe it was not appropriate for Congress to intervene, 27 percent saying they believe it's appropriate. Asked why politicians got involved in this matter, 67 percent say it was for political advantage, while 19 percent, only 19 percent, say it was concern about Schiavo.

I can tell you, I've been talking to Republican aides, though, today, who say they don't care what the polls are saying. They only did this on the principle. And they think long term standing up for life is what people are going to remember, and that's going to help the Republicans in the long run -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Ed, very quickly, you raised politics here. What about the political effect on one individual in all of this, the House majority leader, Tom DeLay.

Before this story really burst on the scene last week, there were some issues swirling around Mr. DeLay with regard to conflict of interest, alleged conflict of interest, alleged ethical matters. Where is he coming out of this at this point?

HENRY: Judy, just a few days ago you could not get Tom DeLay to stand in front of a television camera and answer any questions because of those ethical charges swirling around him. But this weekend you could not keep him off the television. And Republican aides say that's because he found an issue here that he has long supported on life. They feel that this is a major issue for DeLay now politically.

Number one, it has pushed the ethics stories off the front pages. And number two, it has now built a great reservoir of support among conservatives that he may need.

In fact, I can tell you, DeLay's office has been -- their phones have been ringing off the hook today. And I just got off the phone with a man named Bob Nagel (ph) from Tampa. He's a lifelong 70 years old. He just faxed over a copy of the party registration in Florida that he has now changed from Democrat to Republican.

He says that he called Tom DeLay's office today. It's because of Tom DeLay's stance for life. So a DeLay Democrat -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: OK. Well, we'll remember that one. All right. Ed Henry at the Capitol, thanks very much.

We'll have more ahead on the ways Republicans and Democrats are positioning themselves on the fate of Terri Schiavo. Coming up next, I'll talk with two House members at odds over what's been happening.

And later, our Bill Schneider will take a closer look at political motives and public opinion in the case.

Also ahead, Bob Novak tells us why some supporters of the president's nominee for U.S. trade representatives want their money back.


WOODRUFF: At this hour, in Tampa, Florida, a federal district judge is hearing arguments in the case of Terri Schiavo, the brain- damaged Florida woman. We are told that hearing got under way pretty much on time, 3:08 Eastern Time. And the judge in the case told each side he was giving them 30 minutes to make their argument.

Now, that would indicate that we won't expect to hear much more out of the courtroom until a little after 4:00 Eastern Time, but we are waiting. We do have a correspondent inside the courtroom on cell phone connection, so we are -- we are planing to keep you updated with any information we are able to learn as soon as it takes place.

Well, after wrenching debate over the Terri Schiavo bill, some members of the House broke with party lines when the measure was put to a vote. With me now, Democrat Brian Baird of Washington State, who voted for the measure, and Republican Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida, who voted against it.

We thank you very much, both of you, for being with us.

Congressman Baird, to you first. You were one of, what, 47 Democrats who voted for this legislation. Was it hard for you to vote against your leadership?

REP. BRIAN BAIRD (D), WASHINGTON: I didn't really feel like I was voting against my leadership. I didn't really see this as a party line vote.

I think most of us -- and I think Ginny would probably agree -- this was a very personal issue. How do we respect the needs of the family in a very, very complex case for which frankly there were no easy answers? So I didn't see it as a party line vote.

WOODRUFF: Congresswoman Brown-Waite, for you it was a little different. I mean, there were five Republicans and many more who voted the other way. How hard was it for you?

REP. GINNY BROWN-WAITE (R), FLORIDA: Well, there were five Republicans who voted against the bill. There would have been more, but many of them, I believe, were on CODELs or back in their districts with commitments.

WOODRUFF: Overseas trips.

BROWN-WAITE: Correct. They were on overseas trips and unable to get back. This was hastily called, and certainly travel was an issue.

It was a very difficult thing for me to vote against the bill, but you have to consider that courts, over almost a dozen courts, including two visits to the Supreme Court, have reviewed this. It is not the first time that courts have been involved.

WOODRUFF: And given that, Congressman Baird, why did you vote for it?

BAIRD: I would have preferred, frankly, that the bill not be brought before the Congress. I think in general these are best left to state courts.

Once it was brought before the Congress we had a very difficult decision. On the one hand, if you vote for the bill your may preserve her life in a way that she did not want it preserved. If you vote against the bill, her life may be ended. And you don't really know the right answer.

My decision was this, one more review by a federal court in the case where we would have an irreversible decision seemed to make sense to me.

WOODRUFF: Given that, Congresswoman Brown-Waite, why not vote to say, OK, let's give it one more look?

BROWN-WAITE: Because as I read through the testimony, the court testimony that was taken throughout the various times that this issue appeared before court, the parents of Terri Schiavo said, even if she told them that she wanted no extraordinary means to be taken to keep her alive, they would have imposed her will. And, you know, there was also court testimony that said that she clearly did not want extraordinary means to be taken.

You know, I don't know if you remember or not, but the Karen Quinlan case...


BROWN-WAITE: ... that was a very topical (ph) case. Terri would have been 22 at the time. My daughter is the same age. I know that she and I talked about it at the time. The whole nation was talking about Ms. Quinlan.

WOODRUFF: Congressman Baird, let me -- let's bring some public, some polls. ABC has done a poll, they put it out today, showing that the thinking of members of Congress is not in line, apparently, with the American people.

By better than two to one, this poll, shows the public supports the removal of the feeding tube. And even more lopsided margins, 67 percent, think what elected officials are doing here is more for political advantage than anything else.

BAIRD: Well, I can tell you, in my case it's no political advantage. I spent 23 years as a neuropsychologist and I worked with patients and their families. And one of the tragedies about this is there are people who are trying to say that if we only keep her alive, some miraculous technology or medical intervention will restore her back to her normal health.

I can tell you I think that's incredibly unlikely. This was not for me in any way, shape or form a political calculus. It was a tremendously difficult decision that I've made personally in my own family's life and that I've made professionally at work, professionally with other families.

WOODRUFF: Well, Congressman Brown-Waite, it's been disclosed there was a memo circulating apparently put out by Republican staff, saying, among other things, this is an important moral issue, the pro- life base will be excited, and this is a tough issue for Democrats. BROWN-WAITE: I mean, it's a tough issue for Republicans. I think it's a tough issue for every American, every family that's ever had to face this.

This is not a decision that you take lightly. And one of the things that Brian and I agree on is, regardless of how you voted last night or early this morning, because it was after midnight that the vote had to be held, regardless of how you voted, you voted your conscience. There wasn't a right or wrong or a Democrat or Republican way to vote, but rather, I believe, every member voted their conscience.

WOODRUFF: But clearly there's an overlay here of abortion politics, what is now being called the so-called culture of life. That has to be part of the discussion.

BAIRD: It's an issue, Judy. And I find it very troubling.

People last night tried to imply that folks who voted against this resolution somehow didn't care about Terri Schiavo's life or were not pro-life. I find the whole term "pro-life" troubling.

We are all pro life. But, you know, life is incredibly rich, incredibly complex and sometimes tragically painful. And we need to get past that divisiveness, past the opportunism that says let's grab this issue and make headlines.

These are personal family tragedies. And however people voted on this, it should not be a litmus test to try to imply that you don't care about life.

WOODRUFF: But at the same time, I think both of you are saying you wish it hadn't come to this point, that Congress hadn't had to take a vote on this.

BROWN-WAITE: I think the American public wishes that we hadn't had to take a vote on this.


BAIRD: I would agree with that.

WOODRUFF: OK. We're going to leave it there. Congresswoman Brown-Waite, Congressman Baird, we appreciate you both being with us.

BAIRD: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you very much.

As we heard, the voting on the Terri Schiavo bill was not strictly along party lines. Just ahead, Bob Novak has been talking with some Democrats, and he'll tell us what they have to say about the vote.

We'll be right back.


WOODRUFF: Bob Novak joins us now from the "CROSSFIRE" set at George Washington University with some "Inside Buzz."

So, Bob, the Democratic vote, as we referenced, almost split last night on this bill to move the Terri Schiavo case to the federal courts. We just heard from one member. What are you hearing about the bill?

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": I've been talking to several of the Democrats who voted for the Bill, and they said that there was a very close vote in their mind, but when it came to life they would rather err on the side of life than go the other way. But some of them told me quite frankly they were -- they felt, listening to the debate in the House, that the Republicans were coming over as caring about a person who had been on the side of near death and was trying to be helpful to them while the Democrats looked like they were legalistic and worried about constitutional questions.

WOODRUFF: Not a position anybody presumably wants to be in. But some interesting divisions there.

All right. Very different subject. The man who's been nominated to be U.S. trade representative, what's this about wanting money back?

NOVAK: Rob Portman, Republican from Ohio, named U.S. trade representative, very, very popular decision, except with some contributors, mostly lobbyists, who had contributed heavily to his campaign for Congress. They contributed to a $2,500-a-ticket fund- raiser on Capitol Hill last week and the one scheduled in New York this week, and they want their money back.

They're practical people. I think the reason he had the fund- raisers is that his appointment by the president to the trade job came as a surprise to him as well as to everybody else.

WOODRUFF: All right. Let's talk about a Senate race. Pennsylvania, Democrat Bob Casey, we know he is anti-abortion rights. Would he -- I know you've done some reporting on this. What's your understanding? Would he be towing the part line on other important issues?

NOVAK: Well, there's been a lot of feeling that because he is pro life, that Mr. Casey, if we were to beat Rick Santorum, who's also pro life, would work vote for the Clinton -- for the George W. Bush judge appointees who are all pro life. But, as a matter of fact, a reporter, Tim Carney, writing an article in "The National Catholic Register" that will appear soon, talked to the main campaign spokeswoman for Casey and he said Casey will vote against all 10 of the judges that have been held up because they're extreme right- wingers even though they're pro life.

So I think you're going to find that if Casey is elected he's more of a conventional Democrat than you might think.

WOODRUFF: OK. Last but not least, Social Security. Bob, you found out that there is a Democratic group we've all heard of that's out there organizing, trying to defeat the president's plan.

NOVAK: Americans Coming Together. Remember them, by George Soros?

They had all this big, heavy spending against George W. Bush in the campaign. Well, they've turned to Social Security, and on a much more limited basis they're after the only Republican congressman from New York City, Vito Fossella from Statten Island.

They're handing out leaflets on the Staten Island ferry, saying we've got to get these moderate Republican congressmen to go against President Bush on Social Security. On the commuter trains there's a voice bank in New York City into Fossella's district. And so the question is, will Vito Fossella stick with the president, or will ACT roll him over and will he change?

WOODRUFF: All right. We are going to hold our breath until we know the answer to that. So, Bob, you're going to come right back with it. OK.

NOVAK: I'll be back. I'll be back on "CROSSFIRE."

WOODRUFF: Yes. Well, we will see you at 4:30 Eastern.

NOVAK: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Bob Novak, "Inside Buzz." Thanks very much.

Meantime, we are still waiting for word from a Tampa federal judge about the fate of Terri Schiavo. Coming up, we'll have much more on the legal and political tug of war over the brain-damaged Florida woman. And we'll find out if one side or another has more support in the blogosphere.

And later, is a Kennedy having a change of heart about his political future?


WOODRUFF: It is just after 4:00 in the East and as the markets get set to close on Wall Street, I'm joined by Kitty Pilgrim in New York with "The Dobbs Report." Hi, Kitty.


Stocks on Wall Street, they're mostly lower. Let's take a look. Final trades being counted. You have the Dow down about 63 points right now. Nasdaq, very little change, however.

Big story, though, drivers everywhere are seeing record high gasoline prices. According to the Lundberg survey, the average gallon of regular gas already costs a record $2.10. That is up 13 cents in just two weeks. Even higher in some cities across the country.

And jet fuel prices spiking. Airlines trying to counter that by increasing fares. Continental and other carriers went for their third increase this month by boosting round trip tickets by $10. Continental had to rescind that increase today. Northwest says it's sticking to it.

And General Motors is offering early retirement packages in order to lower costs at that company. The cutbacks will affect the company's marketing, its I.T,, communications and finance divisions. Some units will be downsized by as much as 20 percent.

Coming up on CNN, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," broken borders. A new report found more than 10 million illegal aliens were living in this country as of March 2004. And will there be more?


JEFFREY PASSEL, PEW HISPANIC CENTER: The key finding, I think, is that the number is quite large. 10 million is a lot-people. And the number has continued to grow.


PILGRIM: Also tonight, illegal aliens are opening up bank accounts by tens of thousands and the U.S. government seems to be encouraging it. We'll have a special report.

Plus our guest tonight, James Gilchrist, the co-founder of the Minuteman Project. It's a volunteer organization that works to protect our nation's border from illegal aliens.

Also, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson will discuss the military's new program that gives Iraq war veterans a chance at a new career. All that and more tonight, 6:00 Eastern. But for now back to Judy Woodruff.

WOODRUFF: Thanks, Kitty. We will be watching. INSIDE POLITICS continues right now.


ANNOUNCER: The president's role in the Terri Schiavo story. How's he handling the case politically, and might be there be repercussions?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In extraordinary circumstances like, it is wise to always err on the side of life.

ANNOUNCER: The late-night drama, from Florida to Capitol Hill. What lengths did lawmakers go to weigh in on whether Schiavo lives or dies?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This woman needs help, not a death sentence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is pandering for political gain with the next election in mind.

ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Welcome back, as we return to our top story, the legal and political battle over the life and possible death of Terri Schiavo. About an hour ago, a federal judge in Tampa began hearing arguments for and against reinserting Schiavo's feeding tube. Those arguments should be wrapping up shortly. We're going to bring you any word on the outcome as soon as we know it.

The court action comes after President Bush signed emergency legislation approved by Congress last night, transferring authority in the case to the federal courts. Mr. Bush spoke out about Washington's intervention in the case today during a Social Security event in Arizona.

Our White House correspondent Dana Bash is traveling with the president.


DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Even though Congress was engaged at break-neck pace since last week in trying to figure out how to delve into the Terri Schiavo case, the president was very cautious in making any statements publicly. But now that his views are abundantly clear through his actions, signing legislation to try to get this into federal court, the president, for the first time, explained why he intervened in the case.

BUSH: Democrats and Republicans in Congress came together last night to give Terri Schiavo's parents another opportunity to save their daughter's life. This is a complex case with serious issues. But in extraordinary circumstances like this, it is wise to always err on the side of life.

BASH: That's the president explaining why he got involved. Here's how. Here's the tick tock. After abruptly leaving his Crawford ranch on Sunday, flying across the country to the White House, Congress, of course, passed this after midnight. The president was sleeping. He got a call from the White House operator saying that the bill was coming his way. And the shortly thereafter, his staff secretary Brett Kavanaugh knocked on his door. The president got out of bed, opened it, walked into the hallway and signed the bill, while standing outside his bedroom. Then he closed the door and went back to sleep.

Now the White House today is still trying to defend against accusations that the president and Congress overreached, even abused, their powers in this case. Now the White House defends that by saying it's an unusual and complex matter and that this bill is very specific to the Schiavo case and not intended as precedent.

Now some Democrats have been openly accusing the president of playing politics here, trying to appeal to, even reward, his conservative who came out in great numbers for his re-election. And now Democrats, some, are saying that perhaps the president is being hypocritical. They are pointing to a piece of legislation he signed into law as Texas governor. They say in that law he made it possible for hospitals to discontinue life. The president's spokesman is responding to that saying that it's absolutely incorrect and that a 1999 bill he did sign into law actually made it harder to remove sustenance from a patient. And the White House says that anything to the contrary -- any accusation to the contrary -- is an uninformed accusation.

Dana Bash, CNN, Tucson, Arizona.


WOODRUFF: Thank you, Dana. And we have a story to tell from you the Associated Press. They are reporting that a man who is a convicted prior sex offender has been charged with capital murder in the killing of 9-year-old Jessica Marie Lunsford. She was the little girl who disappeared from her home in the middle of the night in Citrus County, Florida, Inverness, Florida. There is her picture.

The man, John Couey, was identified in Augusta, Georgia, just a few days ago. He has been brought back to Citrus County. And just moments ago, the sheriff's office in Florida, in Citrus County, announced that John Couey has been charged with capital murder.

CNN is now confirming, as well, that John Couey has been charged with capital murder in the death of 9-year-old Jessica Marie Lunsford. And we should add that police have said that there is evidence that the little girl was sexually assaulted before she was murdered.

Well, back to the Terri Schiavo case and public opinion of it. And congressional intervention will be a significant factor in the way this story plays out politically. Here now, our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Polls show public opinion pretty one-sided in the Terri Schiavo case, and that side is against what Congress and President Bush did early Monday morning. An ABC News poll taken on Sunday asked Americans how they feel about the bill Congress passed and President Bush signed requiring a federal court review of the Schiavo case.

60 percent of Americans oppose it. In fact, 70 percent believe it was not appropriate for Congress to get involved in the Schiavo case at all. Supporters of the bill claim their intervention was not motivated by politics.

REP. TOM DELAY (R), MAJORITY LEADER: It has nothing to do with politics and it's is disgusting to even suggest it.

SCHNEIDER: The House majority leader is going to be pretty disgusted with the American people because two-thirds of them say political leaders who are trying to keep Mrs. Schiavo alive are not primarily concerned about her welfare and the principles involved. Their main concern, people feel, is political advantage. How can politicians be politically motivated if they're doing the unpopular thing? Those who favor government intervention to save Terri Schiavo may be in the minority, but they seem to be intensely motivated.

REP. DAVID WELDON (R), FLORIDA: The reason I got engaged is I had a lot of my constituents calling me and writing me, expressing some grave concerns that this was a miscarriage of justice.

SCHNEIDER: In this case, intensity matters more than numbers. House Republicans, who voted overwhelmingly for the measure, are concerned about facing a conservative primary opponent. Democrats who showed up to vote were divided. They worry about facing an opponent who charges "you voted to kill Terri Schiavo," which is precisely what the House majority leader hinted could happen.

DELAY: The few remaining objecting House Democrats have so far cost Mrs. Schiavo two meals already today.

SCHNEIDER: Statements like that lead many Democrats to conclude...

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: This is not about values, this is not about religion. It is pandering for political gain with the next election in mind.


SCHNEIDER: According to the poll, the public supports the state court's decision to remove Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube. In fact, more than three quarters of Americans say if they were in her condition, they would not want to be kept alive -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Interesting, the discrepancy between what the public is saying and what the Congress has voted.

SCHNEIDER: Exactly. A big discrepancy.

WOODRUFF: Yes. Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

Well, even before Congress stepped in, Terri Schiavo's case was compelling. But lawmakers and the president have added to the drama in the past few days. That story ahead.

Plus, we'll find out whether bloggers are riled up about Washington's intervention in the Schiavo case.


WOODRUFF: The Terri Schiavo case is evidently attracting a great deal of attention from bloggers. And for a look at today's big topics online, we check in now with Jacki Schechner, she's our blog reporter, and CNN political producer Abbi Tatton. Hello to you both. Jacki, what are you seeing?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN BLOG REPORTER: We are talking about Terri Schiavo on the blogs, of course, as we all are all over the mainstream media. Over on the right, they've been talking about the Schiavo case for some time. We're finding today that the left is just as energized.

But starting over on the right -- we'll starts with Blogs for Terri. They've been up, as far as we can tell, since at least February. And their call to arms was to add your blog to their blog roll. The idea, by doing so, you would then be committing to blog on a regular basis in favor of Terri Schiavo and her family's cause. Now they're calling people to go down to the courthouse. That was a little earlier today. Down in Tampa. And now just some musings on what's going on and certainly opinions -- a lot of opinions -- on how they feel.

Over at Tom Burka. Now, he's not making light of an issue here, but he is certainly adding a little bit of humor to make a point. It's called "Opinions You Should Have." That's his blog. And he's talking about what they're now calling personal legislation. It basically says that Congress's record-breakingly speedy passage of a bill specifically crafted for the parents and brother of Terri Schiavo induced a furor this morning. And he says, "'I can't wait,' says 7- year-old Terry Dooley, who has petitioned Congress to pass legislation ordering Schwinn to give him a new bike." So not trying to be funny, necessarily, but definitely adding a little bit of humor to that part of the situation.

ABBI TATTON, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: Now liberal bloggers all over a 1999 Texas law signed by then-governor George W. Bush. This is the Futile Care Law, where hospitals can remove life support where there was no chance of revival for a terminally ill patient and if there's no funds available for treatment. Now, the White House is saying that Democrats and maybe some of these liberal bloggers, misrepresenting this law, saying it's not the same.

Mark Kleiman -- this is a post that's being read all over the place today. He talks about something that happened last week. Sun Hudson (ph), a 6-month-old boy with a fatal congenital disease, died Thursday at a Texas hospital, over his mother's objections, withdrew his feeding tube. He's saying where is the outrage on this one? He goes on to say perhaps Mr. Bush, who says he thinks there should be a presumption in favor of life, can explain that to us, that lack of outrage.

Something else here Kleiman goes on to ask, is there a copy of the outrageous Senate Republican talking points around somewhere? I've seen references, in quote, but no link to the text. They are now available at D.C.'s Inside Scoop. You can look at those. Those were talked about a lot over the weekend. Right there, the ones that say this is a great political issue.

SCHECHNER: Majikthise. That's spelled, M-A-J-I-K-T-H-I-S-E, for the sake of accurate transcription. Lindsay Bayerstein (ph) over there promoting the Schiavo blog swarm. The call to action here is to e-mail the mainstream media outlets and she says, "Tell them from your heart what you think of what's happening and tell them they need to represent to the other side of the story." The other side being that Tom DeLay is slandering Michael Schiavo, that Congress is butting into people's personal lives, that you're disgusted by what they're doing. Tell them what you think. She also has a considerable collection of links to commentary on the left. So the call, energize today.

TATTON: Right. Huge amounts on Schiavo there. But there are other stories out there. One of them is a "New York Times" story today, on the front cover of the "New York Times," that people are really linking to. This is about -- the tide may be turning on Iraq's street of fear, referring to the notorious Haifa Street. Saying that things may be getting better right there. Matt Iglasius (ph) links to this story. He says it really does sound like good news on the fact that there are many more Iraqi troops being deployed there. He says, insofar as you see that the troops brought home and the occupation ended, it seems that this is the sort of news that will push the White House to start drawing our force level down.

SCHECHNER: More comment at the Belgravia Dispatch, a London blogger. He's an attorney with a lot of international relations knowledge and experience. And he is saying that a good show of how this is turning is that there is an old article by the same author, just as recently as January 27th, that was much more gloomy. So, Judy, they're basically saying that not only is the tide turning, but the mainstream media is picking up the good news, as they call it. And that's good to hear.

WOODRUFF: So Jacki, just one clarification, would you say the preponderance of views out there are for inserting the feeding tube again for Terri Schiavo? Or is it too hard to say?

SCHECHNER: Well, it's hard to say. But what we've been noticing is a resurgence today of what we call the left coming out and saying that they want Congress, for lack of a better term, to butt out of this situation. It's a reenergizing, I guess, of a different side of the issue.

WOODRUFF: Interesting, as we look at the blogs and compare them to what the public opinion polls are showing. All right, Jacki, Abbi, thank you very much both. We'll see you tomorrow.

We have, again, breaking news to share with you out of Florida in Citrus County. Homosassa, Florida. The sheriff's office there has charged John Couey, a 46-year-old man, previous sex offender, in the murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford. Let's go to Homosassa now to our Sara Dorsey -- Sara.

SARA DORSEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hello to you, Judy. Only moments ago, the four charges that the sheriff's office has determined John Couey should be charged in the case against 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford just came out. And I will read those to you. They are burglary with battery, kidnapping, sexual battery on a child less than 12 years of age and capital murder. We are told all of these carry no bond, so Couey will remain in the Citrus County Detention Center, where he currently was today being held on different charges. He was arrested there again for these charges, just really a formality.

Now, we are told tomorrow he will take his first appearance in front of a judge for these particular charges at 7:30 in the morning. CNN will be following that. As you know, John Couey is the man the sheriff's office has confessed to killing Jessica Lunsford on February 23rd.

CNN has learned some details about that. apparently, Couey went into her home, made his way to he room, put his hand over her mouth and forced her out of the house. Investigators have also told us that they believe Couey may have held her captive for one day, probably two. They're not clear exactly about the timeline that Couey gave them in the confessions, apparently because he was taking some drugs, according to the sheriff's office officials, so that is still something that is going to come out in more detail. The medical examiner's office also has found some evidence, according to the sheriff, of sexual assault.

So, once again, the four charges for John Couey -- burglary with battery, kidnapping, sexual battery on a child less than 12 years of age and capital murder.

Judy, I'll send it back in to you.

WOODRUFF: All right. Sara Dorsey -- and just to correct what I said, Sara's reporting from Inverness, Florida, and again, what a terribly tragic story.

Well, it was certainly an unusual scene on Capitol Hill. Members of Congress rushed back from a holiday break to vote on a private life or death matter. Just ahead, Bruce Morton takes a closer look at the emotional debate over the bill that lets a federal court decide Terri Schiavo's fate.


WOODRUFF: Extraordinary and unprecedented, those words are being used to describe the decision by Congress to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case. Our Bruce Morton takes a closer look at how the emotionally charged story played out on Capitol Hill.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: House rules say they can't vote until Monday. The debate begins Sunday night; Congress straggling back from wherever they'd been on their Easter recess.

REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R), WISCONSIN: As the House convenes this palm Sunday, the Florida courts are enforcing a merciless directive to deprive Terri Schiavo her right to life.

MORTON: Debbie Wasserman-Schultz said her husband's family disconnected a feeding tube from an aunt just weeks ago.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Do we really want to set the precedent of this great body, the United States Congress, to insert ourselves in the middle of families' private matters all across America? REP. JOSEPH PITTS (R), PENNSYLVANIA: This woman needs help, not a death sentence. She needs the warmth of a family that cares for her. She needs the help of doctors who want to treat her, instead of recommending that she die.

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I have no right to make that decision, and I have no information for it. Separation of powers, when they wrote the Constitution, they weren't kidding around. They made some sensible distinctions. We legislate on broad policy.

MORTON: Rick Renzi of Arizona. It's just after 11:00 p.m.

REP. RICK RENZI (R), ARIZONA: We want mercy. Be merciful, and find true bravery and justice in preserving the life of Terri Schiavo.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: This is a step in where we have no business. This is walking where the angels fear to tread. We playing with a young woman's life for the sake of politics. This is not about values. This is not about religion. It is pandering for political gain, with the next election in mind.

MORTON: How much did it cost to bring them from their districts or vacations? Millions, one member guesses. Not all made it: Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi couldn't. She's in the Middle East.

Just after midnight, Tom DeLay sums up.

REP. TOM DELAY (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I say again, the legal and political issues may be complicated, but the moral ones are not. A young woman in Florida is being dehydrated and starved to death. For 58 long hours, her mouth has been parched and her hunger pangs have been throbbing. If we do not act, she will die of thirst.

MORTON: They votes, 203, 156 Republicans vote and 47 Democrats yes. 58, 53 Democrats and 5 Republicans vote no. I've been here 13 years, one member says, and I have never seen anything like this before. Nobody else has either.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: And that includes me.

Thank you, Bruce.

Here in Washington, meantime, there is word of a comeback at the Supreme Court. The details, ahead.


WOODRUFF: An update now from the federal courthouse -- federal district courthouse in Tampa, Florida. The judge in the Terri Schiavo case, arguments got under way at 3:08 Eastern, at which point the judge told he wanted each side, the attorneys for Michael Schiavo on one hand, the attorneys for the Schindler family who are Terri Schiavo's parents on the other side. He was going to give each of them 30 minutes. We are told that as of 3:53 p.m. the attorney for the Schindler family had finished his argument, and that at that point, the attorney for Michael Schiavo began to make his argument. So, we expect that that -- we will hear from the courthouse any moment now, and of course, we are monitoring it as we speak.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS this Monday. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


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