PINELLAS PARK, Florida – While Terri Schiavo (search) lay in her hospice bed, the severely brain-damaged woman's parents and husband made competing pleas to the public and Congress on her third day without food or water.
As protesters and TV satellite trucks gathered outside the hospice Sunday, the Senate passed a bill that could prolong Schiavo's life while a federal court considers her case. House Republicans scrambled to bring enough lawmakers back to the Capitol for an emergency vote early Monday after Democrats objected to a vote by a small handful of lawmakers.
President George W. Bush was cutting short a stay at his Texas ranch and returning to the White House to sign it.
An attorney for Schiavo's parents said every federal judge that could hear the case has agreed to take it on an emergency basis once the bill passes. A judge will be chosen at random, and the attorney hopes to immediately have Schiavo taken to a hospital to have the tube reinserted.
"We feel every moment is urgent, we are considering every second as precious in terms of saving Terri," said David Gibbs II, an attorney for Bob and Mary Schindler (search).
Schiavo's husband, Michael Schiavo (search), said he was outraged that congressional leaders were intervening in the contentious right-to-die battle with Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler. They have been fighting for years over whether she should be permitted to die or kept alive by the feeding tube.
"I think that the Congress has more important things to discuss," he told CNN, calling the move political and criticizing House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who helped broker the congressional compromise.
Mary Schindler pleaded for parents nationwide to call their congressional representatives and pressure them to vote for a bill to prolong her daughter's life.
"There are some congressmen that are trying to stop this bill," she said outside her daughter's hospice. "Please don't use my daughter's suffering for your own personal agenda."
Outside the hospice, a subdued crowd of about 50 people prayed and sang behind signs bearing such slogans as "Let Terri Live" and "President Bush Please Save Terri." One man played "Amazing Grace" on a trumpet, as a pickup truck pulled a trailer bearing 10-foot-high replicas of the stone Ten Commandments tablets and a huge working version of the Liberty Bell.
Will Svab, 24, of Seminole, held a 6-foot plastic foam spoon bearing the words "Please Feed Terri."
"We're hopeful," he said of the recent developments in Congress. "In our faith it's Palm Sunday. It brings us hope that something good will happen."
Across the street, reporters camped out amid rows of TV satellite trucks.
The 41-year-old woman's feeding tube was removed Friday on a Florida judge's order. Schiavo could linger for one or two weeks if the tube is not reinserted — as has happened twice before, once on a judge's order and once after Gov. Jeb Bush passed "Terri's Law," which was later declared unconstitutional.
The bill being considered in Washington would apply only to Schiavo and would allow a federal court to review the case. If it passes, attorneys would probably have to seek a federal court order to have the tube reinserted while courts review the decisions that allowed Michael Schiavo to remove the feeding tube, Schindler attorney Barbara Weller said.
Weller sent a letter to the hospice and to the office of Michael Schiavo's attorney Saturday night notifying them of the effort in Congress and asking them to "take whatever measures necessary to prepare for the tube to be put back in" as early as Monday.
Weller also learned Sunday that an appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on due-process issues is still alive, with the court asking for additional briefs before noon Sunday. The same action was denied Friday by a federal court in Florida.
Terri Schiavo suffered severe brain damage in 1990 when her heart stopped briefly because of a chemical imbalance. She can breathe on her own, but has relied on the feeding tube to keep her alive.
Doctors say she is in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery. Her husband says she would not want to be kept alive in that condition, but her parents insist she could recover with treatment.