Schiavo's husband, Michael Schiavo, raged against Congress in a series of interviews, saying on CNN that the government is "getting in the middle of something they know nothing about."
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), who pushed Congress to consider the legislation, said he is "confident that this compromise will restore nutrition and hydration to Ms. Schiavo as long as that appeal endures."
DeLay said he did not know if it would mean she would be spared indefinitely. "That's not the point," he said. "The point is that Terri Schiavo should have the opportunity. We should investigate every avenue before we take the life of a living human being, and that's the very least we can do for her."
The tube was also removed for two days in April 2001, after state and federal courts refused to intervene, and for six days in October 2003, after the state judge handing the case determined she had no hope of recovery. The Florida legislature hastily passed a bill allowing Gov. Jeb Bush (R) to intervene.
After the eight-minute Senate session, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said House Republicans should have dealt with the matter last week. "I do not believe there was a need for this to be dragged out in the media yesterday, today and now into the weekend," he said.
Republicans acknowledged that the intervention was a departure from their usual support for states' rights. But they said their views about the sanctity life trumped their views about federalism.
An unsigned one-page memo, distributed to Republican senators, said the debate over Schiavo would appeal to the party's base, or core, supporters. The memo singled out Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who is up for reelection next year and is potentially vulnerable in a state President Bush won last year.
"This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue," said the memo, which was reported by ABC News and later given to The Washington Post. "This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a cosponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats."
The House is to meet at 1 p.m. today and the Senate at 2 p.m. Objections from even one Democrat would prevent the bill from passing in the House, and leaders said that is expected. Two Democrats from Florida said they will demand a debate. So House leaders said they are likely to have to meet again, at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow, when they can put the bill on a calendar that would deny Democrats some ways to stall action.
With lawmakers scattered from Iraq to Australia, leaders hope to use parliamentary methods -- such as a voice vote rather than a roll call -- to pass the bills without calling back their entire memberships.
House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said the outcome is clear and that it is "just how we get there." He said that if Democrats demand a roll call vote, Republicans will need to come up with 218 votes and two-thirds of the House, and he said it would be "just a matter of time" before enough of the 232 Republicans could be rounded up to do that. A vote would not begin until then.
The Senate met with just three senators -- Frist, Harkin and Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) -- on the floor, surrounded by two dozen pages, clerks and parliamentarians. Santorum, who was in the chair, prayed at the start of the session because no chaplain showed up. Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) also returned to the Capitol.
The Senate session was a technical matter, to adjourn so that the House could act before tomorrow, when a session is scheduled.
Roig-Franzia reported from Pinellas Park, Fla.