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Emergency vote puts Schiavo case in federal court

President signs bill transferring jurisdiction from state judge

Terri Schiavo's husband, Michael, speaks out on "Larry King Live" at 9 p.m. ET Monday.
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A federal judge will hear arguments in the Schiavo case.

President Bush signs a bill allowing a federal court to review the case.

Schiavo's father thanks Congress for passing emergency legislation.


• Timeline: Key events
• On The Scene: Jeffrey Toobin
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• FindLaw:  Compromise Billexternal link

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The fight over whether Terri Schiavo's feeding tube should be restored moved to federal court Monday after Congress passed emergency legislation in the severely brain-damaged woman's case.

President Bush signed the bill into law early Monday, shortly after it cleared the House of Representatives by a 203-58 vote. The Senate passed the legislation by voice vote Sunday.

The unprecedented move transferred jurisdiction in the case to a federal judge for review.

Schiavo's husband and guardian, Michael, has said his wife would not want to continue living in a persistent vegetative state -- which court-appointed doctors have determined her condition is.

Her parents and siblings dispute that diagnosis, opposing her husband's efforts to have the feeding tube removed.

Bush told an audience in Tucson, Arizona, on Monday that the legislation gives Schiavo's parents "another opportunity to save their daughter's life."

"This is a complex case with serious issues," Bush said. "But in extraordinary circumstances like this, it is wise to always err on the side of life."

After the legislation's passage, an attorney for the parents moved to have the tube reinserted. (Full story)

On Friday, a Florida judge ruled that the tube could be removed and rejected a House panel's efforts to subpoena Schiavo, her husband and doctors in the case. The U.S. Supreme Court later rejected the House's appeal to intervene. (Full story)

Emotional debate

Congress does not have the authority to order the feeding tube reinserted, but a federal court could do so while reviewing the case.

Many lawmakers had gone back to their districts for the Easter recess before the emergency session was announced, but 261 of 435 representatives returned in time for the vote.

Bush flew back to Washington from his Texas ranch to sign the bill. (Full story)

Leading up to the House vote, the issue spurred passionate debate.

The extraordinary session had supporters, primarily Republicans, arguing that the issue was Schiavo's "right to life," with a Democrat warning that passing the measure would "undermine over 200 years of jurisprudence."

The special vote required a super-majority, meaning two-thirds of House members had to approve it -- a mark easily reached.

Forty-seven Democrats joined 156 Republicans in voting for the bill.

"The measure of a nation's commitment to the sanctity of life is reflected in its laws and to the extent those laws honor and defend its most vulnerable citizens," said Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, kicking off the debate.

"When a person's intentions regarding whether to receive lifesaving treatment are unclear, the responsibility of a compassionate nation is to affirm that person's right to life. In our public actions, we must build a culture of life that welcomes and defends all human life."

Earlier Sunday, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay argued that Schiavo deserved to have her case reviewed at the federal level.

"The legal issues, I grant you, are complicated, but the moral ones are not," the Republican from Texas told reporters. "What will it hurt to have a federal judge take a fresh look at all this evidence and apply it against 15 years' worth of advances in medical technology?"

But some Democrats said Congress had no right to become involved in a sensitive family issue.

"We are members of Congress," said Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida. "We are not doctors. We are not medical experts. We are not bioethicists."

Robert Wexler, D-Florida, said: "Courts in Florida have received expert testimony from prominent neurosurgeons and neurologists throughout the country. The evidence provided by a standard of clear and convincing evidence is that it is Mrs. Schiavo's wish that she not be allowed to continue in a persistent vegetative state."

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