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Deal reached: Congress meeting Sun. to consider Schiavo bill

WASHINGTON (BP)–Congress has reached a deal that would force the re-insertion of Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube and provide her parents with an avenue to appeal the case to federal court, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Saturday afternoon.

The bill, which DeLay said is similar to the one that passed the Senate Thursday, would apply only to Schiavo, whose feeding tube was pulled Friday afternoon. If not re-inserted she will die of starvation and dehydration within a week or so.

In an extraordinary action, the House is scheduled to meet Sunday at 1 p.m. EST, the Senate at 2 p.m. EST. President Bush has indicated he would sign the bill.

“We are confident that this compromise will restore nutrition and hydration to Mrs. Schiavo, as long as that appeal endures,” DeLay said at a news conference.

The bill would allow Schiavo’s parents –- who have been fighting to keep their daughter alive -– to appeal their case to a federal judge, which would give a complete review of the facts.

“The United States Congress has been working nonstop over the last three days to do its part to uphold human dignity and affirm a culture of life,” Frist said on the Senate floor Saturday. “… Under the legislation we will soon consider, Terri Schiavo will have another chance.”

Congress attempted but failed to keep the feeding tube in place Friday with a series of subpoenas and even a request for Schiavo herself to appear before a Senate committee. But those efforts failed, as Florida Judge George Greer ignored them and ordered the feeding tube removed.

Apparently, the bill has bi-partisan support. DeLay said he has been in contact with House Democrats to “build momentum” within the party. He said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D.-Nev., has been “very helpful” in doing the same in the Senate.

“This is not over, but this compromise has cut across every division in Congress, and all sides agree it is the best way to proceed,” DeLay said.

One Democrat, Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota, appeared at the news conference. Oberstar said the bill brings together people of “different” beliefs and is “carefully crafted.”

“I think it’s a fair resolution and it is narrowly targeted,” Oberstar said.

Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, another Democrat, also appeared at a news conference in support of the bill.

Terri Schiavo’s case has captured the nation’s attention in recent weeks, with President Bush even weighing in. For years her parents and her husband have been in a legal struggle over whether she should live or die. While her husband, Michael Schiavo, says she would not want to live in her present state, no written request exists. Meanwhile, he has lived with his girlfriend, by whom he has fathered two children. Her parents say she has the capacity to swallow and could learn to eat food orally.

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  • Michael Foust