House, Senate Compromise on Schiavo Bill

Congressional leaders hoped a deal reached Saturday would clear the way for a brain-damaged woman to resume being fed while a federal court reviews the right-to-die battle between her parents and her husband.

"We think we have found a solution" to the Terri Schiavo case, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (search), R-Texas, said at a Capitol Hill news conference.

"I'm pleased to announce that House and Senate Republican leadership have reached an agreement on a legislative solution," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (search) of Tennessee said a few hours later at the start of a brief Senate session.

"Under the legislation we will soon consider Terry Schiavo will have another chance," said Frist.

"We are confident this compromise addresses everyone's concerns, we are confident it will provide Mrs. Schiavo a clear and appropriate avenue for appeal in federal court, and most importantly, we are confident this compromise will restore nutrition and hydration to Mrs. Schiavo as long as that appeal endures," DeLay said.

House approval was hoped for Sunday when the House planned to meet in a special session, he said.

The Senate (search) session Saturday evening was convened to formally give necessary permission for the House to meet Sunday, when it otherwise would be in recess under a previously passed Easter recess resolution.

The plan is for the House to act on the two-page bill Sunday, or just after midnight Monday morning if someone objects to the bill being taken up on an expedited basis Sunday.

Frist said the Senate then would act on the House legislation later Monday, assuming it passes the House as envisioned, and rush the bill to the president for signature into law.

President Bush was expected to sign the bill as soon as it gets to him.

A White House spokesman, Jeanie Mamo, said the president, who was at his Texas ranch "was supportive of the efforts by congressional leaders. We remain in contact with Congress and the president is being kept apprised."

The compromise was similar to a Senate bill passed Thursday that would let a federal court review the state judge's decision in the Schiavo case. House Republicans had favored broader legislation that applied similar cases that questioned the legality of withholding food or medical treatment from people who are incapacitated.

Schiavo's feeding tube was disconnected Friday afternoon. Schiavo, 41, could linger for one to two weeks if no one intercedes and gets the tube reinserted.

GOP Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the measure was "narrowly targeted" and did not set a precedent.

For a decade, a feud has raged between Schiavo's husband, Michael, and her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, who have tried to oust Michael Schiavo as their daughter's guardian and keep in place the tube that has kept her alive for more than 15 years.

Michael Schiavo says his wife told him she would not want to be kept alive artificially. Her parents dispute that, saying she could get better and that their daughter has laughed, cried, smiled and responded to their voices.

On Friday, Republicans used their subpoena power to demand that Schiavo be brought before a congressional hearing, with lawmakers saying that removing the tube amounted to "barbarism."

The Florida judge presiding over the case rejected the request from House lawyers to delay the tube's removal. Late Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court, without comment, denied an emergency request from the House committee that issued the subpoenas to reinsert Schiavo's feeding tube while the committee filed appeals in the lower courts to have its subpoenas recognized.