"Our folks are nervous about this," said a high-ranking House Democratic aide, one of several who would speak only on background because of the topic's sensitivity. Democrats are aware of the polls, he said, but also wary of the intensity and determination of the conservative groups -- many of them steeped in the politics of abortion -- that are demanding that Schiavo be kept alive.
Democrats may be misreading the public's mood, however. "The intensity of public sentiment is . . . on the side of Schiavo's husband," the ABC poll concluded, with more Americans strongly supporting the feeding tube's removal than strongly opposing it.
_____More From The Post_____
Schiavo Case Goes To Federal Judge (The Washington Post, Mar 22, 2005)
Legal Experts Say Parents Are Unlikely To Prevail (The Washington Post, Mar 22, 2005)
Medical, Ethical Questions Largely Decided, Experts Say (The Washington Post, Mar 22, 2005)
Battle Prompts A New Interest In Living Wills (The Washington Post, Mar 22, 2005)
63% of Americans support the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube.
70% said it was inappropriate for Congress to get involved as it has.
Source: ABC News poll
The Battle for Schiavo|
A look at the long legal battle over whether Floridian Terri Schiavo, 41, may be taken off life support.
Feb. 1990: Schiavo suffers brain damage from heart failure.
Feb. 2000: Circuit Judge George W. Greer rules that Schiavos feeding tube may be removed, as requested by
April 2001: The feeding tube is removed. Two days later, Circuit Judge Frank Quesada orders doctors to
June 2003: The 2nd District Court of Appeal upholds Greers ruling to remove the tube.
Oct.: Gov. Jeb Bush files a federal court brief urging that Schiavo be kept alive.
He is denied.
Doctors remove the feeding tube.
The state legislature passes a bill, called "Terris Law," allowing Bush to intervene. He orders the feeding tube
Sept. 2004: Floridas Supreme Court rules that Terris Law is unconstitutional.
Jan. 2005: The U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear the governors appeal.
Feb.: Greer grants an emergency stay blocking the removal of Schiavos feeding tube. He later sets March 18
as the day the tube may be removed.
Mar. 16: House passes legislation to try to block efforts to let Schiavo die.
Mar. 17: Senate passes separate legislation.
Mar. 18: House committee subpoenas Schiavo and others. Florida judge blocks the subpoenas; U.S. Supreme
Court lets that ruling stand. Feeding tube is removed.
Mar. 20: Senate passes legislation giving federal courts jurisdiction in the case.
Mar. 21: House passes the same bill, sending it to President Bush for his signature.
SOURCES: Associated Press, staff reports
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), a liberal who spoke strongly against the legislation Sunday night, said Democrats should cite it in next year's elections as an example of congressional Republicans having too much power driven by hard-right ideology. "The American people have a distrust of excessive zeal, and some of the Republican leaders' determination to impose their religious views borders on fanaticism," he said. "They're playing God."
Democratic senators -- who represent larger, more diverse constituencies than do House members -- have eschewed such hard-hitting comments. Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), noted that Democrats including Sens. Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Carl M. Levin (Mich.) spoke publicly against the legislation but saw no point in trying to postpone it.
"It was clear this bill had majority support, and there was no point in delaying a vote," Manley said.
The new law appears to conflict with a Texas law Bush signed as governor, according to lawyers familiar with the legislation. The 1999 Advance Directives Act in Texas allows a patient's surrogate to make end-of-life decisions and spells out how to proceed if a health provider disagrees with a decision to maintain or halt life-sustaining treatment.
Thomas Mayo, an associate law professor at Southern Methodist University who helped draft the Texas law, told the Associated Press that if the Schiavo case had happened in Texas, the husband would have been her surrogate decision maker. Because both he and her doctors were in agreement, life support would have been discontinued, he said.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters that the law Bush signed in 1999 "is consistent with his views. . . . [It] actually provided new protections for patients."
Fletcher reported from Tucson. Staff writer Mike Allen contributed to this report.