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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Congress Convenes 'Palm Sunday Session' to Consider Schiavo Bill; U.S. and Iraqi Officials Discuss 2nd Anniversay of Iraq War
Aired March 20, 2005 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's noon in Washington, 5 p.m. in London, 9 a.m. in Los Angeles, 8 p.m. right here in Kuwait City.
Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for this special LATE EDITION.
We're watching two major stories unfolding this hour on CNN. We're watching the second anniversary of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
Also, an important story developing in Washington: the effort to go ahead and try to save Terri Schiavo, to see if the federal government, the U.S. Congress and the executive branch of the U.S. government are going to get involved.
All of these stories we're watching very closely. Much more coming up.
First, though, let's get a quick check of what's in the news right now.
BLITZER: Let's go to Washington right now. We're following the case of Terri Schiavo, an effort under way on Capitol Hill right now to see if they can re-insert that feeding tube which had been keeping her alive.
Our congressional correspondent, Joe Johns, covering this story, an extraordinary story right in the U.S. Capitol.
Joe, update our viewers in the United States and around the world on this remarkable legislative initiative that is being undertaken right now.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these are extraordinary measures: The Congress, planning to meet on Palm Sunday to try to pass this legislation that was thrown together to get the feeding tube of Terri Schiavo re-inserted; also, giving her parents standing to sue on this matter in federal court.
The House of Representatives scheduled to meet around 1:00 eastern time. That's about 55 minutes from now.
They're going to try to get what is known as unanimous consent, otherwise known as total agreement to pass this legislation. That's not expected to happen.
I talked to Congressman Robert Wexler of Florida who says he will object if given the opportunity because in his view the Congress is trying to interfere in an issue that Congress is not supposed to be involved in.
Meanwhile, of course, the Republicans over on the House side say these are extraordinary measures, totally justified according to the chairman of the House Rules Committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE DAVID DREIER (R-CA): It seems to me that we are at a point where we've had no choice other than to ensure that these parents, who desperately are seeking an opportunity to care for their daughter, have a chance to be heard in federal court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: So since there will be an objection on this matter, in a little bit before an hour from now, what we do expect is that the House of Representatives will have to come back just after midnight and try to pass the legislation again. The Senate of the United States, of course, standing by to wave that bill through just as soon as they get the word from the house.
Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Joe Johns reporting for us from Capitol Hill. We'll be checking back with you on all of these developments. And coming up later on "Late Edition," I'll be speaking with Congressman Robert Wexler to get his assessment on why he's going to vote against this initiative.
President Bush right now getting ready to leave his Texas ranch to head back to Washington to sign legislation into law if it comes down to that. Our Elaine Quijano is covering that part of the story. She's joining us live from the White House.
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Wolf.
That's right. In a sign of just how important President Bush views the Terri Schiavo case, as you mentioned, the president will be returning from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he was to have spent the bulk of the Easter recess.
Instead, in essence, he will be on standby in Washington as members of Congress work on that legislation. White House Spokesman Scott McClellan saying that the president very much wants to sign a measure as quickly as possible once passed, adding that in the president's view this is about defending life.
Now that is very much in keeping with what the White House has said in the past, although White House officials have been careful not to comment on the specific maneuvers by Congress to get involved in the case.
The White House has said over and over that President Bush very much supports a, quote, "culture of life," end quote.
And so President Bush will be returning here from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, expected to arrive later this afternoon fully prepared to sign legislation aimed at keeping Terri Schiavo alive.
BLITZER: Elaine Quijano reporting for us from the White House with all of those developments. Let's go to the hospice now in Florida, where Terri Schiavo has been staying over these past many years. Our national correspondent Bob Franken is right outside. He joins us with the latest from there.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And inside the hospice where she is, it is, of course, peaceful. Outside it is remarkably subdued given the intensity of emotions here and given the involvement of very active so-called right-to-life groups, but there's been a consensus that the best way to be heard is speak quietly.
And there's been intense pressure put on the politicians in the political process by members of the family, the immediate family, the blood family of Terri Schiavo, who want the feeding tube reattached.
They're in a bitter feud that has gone on for several years with her husband, Michael Schiavo. And the mother of Terri Schiavo has called on the politicians not to pursue their agenda. But Michael Schiavo who is the husband, who wants the feeding tube kept out, says the political agenda is one that is interfering with a very private, very painful matter.
BLITZER: Bob Franken in Pinellas Park in Florida watching the story. We'll be checking back with you in the coming hours, as well.
Let's move on now to the second anniversary this weekend of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. I'm here in Kuwait City. Almost all of the 150,000 U.S. troops and other coalition troops that go into Iraq or come out of Iraq go through U.S. bases here in Kuwait City.
Just a little while ago here in Kuwait I had a chance to speak with the top U.S. Army commander in Kuwait who is in charge of all of these in-and-out movements from Iraq.
Lieutenant General Stephen Whitcomb joined me, and we discussed the second anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion.
BLITZER: General, thanks very much for joining us on LATE EDITION. On this second anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq, are you satisfied that all U.S. troops heading into Iraq from Kuwait have the armor they need to protect themselves?
WHITCOMB: Absolutely, I am. From a perspective of operational force protection and what we put on troops and what we are putting on troops, this really has been a success story for our Army.
As far back as October 2004, after the problem of the improvised explosive devices was identified in the July timeframe of 2003, we have not driven a vehicle into Iraq from Kuwait that has not had some form of armor protection on it, either Level One, Level Two, or the hardening, the steel plating on what we call "Level Three."
BLITZER: Because you were here on December 8th when Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was here in Kuwait. And he was asked that question by a soldier, who said that he had to go through some junkyards looking for armor to put on his vehicle so that he would feel safe. And you know the commotion that was caused as a result of that.
WHITCOMB: Well, absolutely, sir.
I was with the secretary. In fact, Secretary Rumsfeld had talked about that very question and issue as we were going out to the townhall meeting that he had here in Kuwait at Camp Buehring.
And I had talked him through the procedures and the processes that we were going through to ensure that our troops went into harm's way with the right kind of protection.
BLITZER: Are soldiers still going through junkyards here in Kuwait looking for armor to put on their vehicles?
WHITCOMB: Sir, I don't know that they're junkyards, and that was the implication of that particular question to the secretary.
As equipment retrogrades or comes down out of Iraq, if we're not going to send that equipment back to the States, what we are going to do is take what we can off it, if it's a shortage for the troops in Iraq (inaudible)
So, in the case of Level Three hardening -- that's steel-plating that was added -- we took some of that plating off, and we would put it in stockpiles at our forward camps and also down here at Camp Arifjan, to be reused, to put back on vehicles that are going forward.
BLITZER: The best armor for these Humvees or the vehicles that go into Kuwait -- and hundreds of them are going in from Kuwait on a daily basis -- the best armor is so-called "Level One," then there's "Level Two," and then there's "Level Three".
WHITCOMB: That's right.
BLITZER: And then there's no level at all...
WHITCOMB: That's correct.
BLITZER: ... for some vehicles, although you say every vehicle going into Iraq right now has at least some armor. WHITCOMB: That's correct, sir. At least a Level Three, and that's the add-on piece of steel plating.
BLITZER: But the Level Three doesn't have any protection on the top and doesn't have any protection on the bottom.
WHITCOMB: No, that's correct, sir. The Level One is the top of the line. It's a factory-produced vehicle that gives you 360-degree protection.
The Level Two is also factory-produced kits that we bolt on and add onto the vehicle itself. It includes ballistic glass for both front and side windows, but that Level Two does not have protection below or protection above.
And the Level Three, as I said, is the steel plating that's added on. It does not have protection for the windows in the vehicle, so it's a bridge to get to the Level Two and Level One (inaudible)
BLITZER: So two years into this war in Iraq, you're still not where you ought to be.
WHITCOMB: That's right.
BLITZER: The secretary of defense said you go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you necessarily want. You don't have that Army yet that you really want.
WHITCOMB: Well, the secretary also did a very skillful job before he got to that famous quote of explaining where we were in June of 2003. And that was really just a handful of up-armored Humvees. This fleet was not designed nor were any of our wheeled vehicles designed to have armoring on it, because it was a different war back then. It was more of a linear war and not one where you had a threat that was all around you.
So the success has been going from 2003 with a handful of Level One up-armored Humvees to what we have today, which is in excess of 7,000.
BLITZER: General, I think it's fair to say, and I'm sure you will agree, you would want every vehicle going into Iraq, given the danger from explosive devices, roadside explosive devices, suicide bombers, you'd want every vehicle to be at that Level One.
WHITCOMB: Oh, absolutely, sir, and that's what we're moving towards, a complete fleet of Level One or Level Two, the factory- produced add-on kits, by the end of this summer.
BLITZER: So you think by the end of this summer everything will be either Level One or Level Two?
WHITCOMB: That goes off of a base.
BLITZER: What about body armor for troops moving through Kuwait into Iraq? WHITCOMB: Yes, sir.
BLITZER: Because there's been a lot of suggestions that some of these soldiers are asking relatives to send them vests or body armor, because you don't have enough.
WHITCOMB: That's the individual body armor. It's the top-of- the-line protection. Every soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is also in our theater, has the individual body armor with SAPI plates, if you will, which is the top-of-the-line capability that we have right now.
That problem has been solved for months. We continue to look at technology, how to improve that, just as we do with anything. But no soldier needs to write back to their hometown to try and get something that they perceive is better. They've got the best.
BLITZER: Do active duty soldiers -- and you're the commander of all U.S. soldiers in Kuwait -- do active duty soldiers get exactly the same armor as National Guard and reservists? In other words, are reservists and National Guard soldiers second-class citizens?
WHITCOMB: Sir, there's no differentiation between what a soldier gets, be it an active soldier or a National Guard or Army Reserve soldier or a Marine or the other soldiers.
BLITZER: Because you know there have been a lot of suggestions...
BLITZER: National Guard troops are saying, you know, they don't go into Iraq with the same excellent equipment that the active duty soldiers do.
WHITCOMB: Sir, that's not the case. The operational requirements are determined by the guy on the ground in Iraq itself, and again, in Afghanistan. But the equipment our troops draw here, whether it's comfort items such as parkas, whether it's the knee plaids and elbow pads that our infantry troops use, we don't look at a patch when we issue that type of equipment.
We also don't look at the type of unit for the up-armoring piece.
In fact, in October when we started sending brigade- sized units north with no unarmored vehicles, there were many brigades already operating in Iraq that had been there for a year that didn't come close to that kind of protection.
It was an operational decision that we wanted to give our forces going north, regardless of what component, the best protection we could.
BLITZER: Adding the armor to vehicles that were not necessarily originally built to have that heavy armor has resulted in another problem, according to the Pentagon who just released some statistics. In the first 10 weeks of this year, 14 soldiers were killed in accidents rolling over...
WHITCOMB: Yes, sir.
BLITZER: ... and there are some suspicions it's the result of -- they don't know how to drive these vehicles with the heavy armor on it. What's going on with these traffic accidents?
WHITCOMB: Well, there's two aspects of it, sir. Some of it is operational. It's the types of conditions that the soldiers are driving on: very narrow roads, a lot of canals up in Iraq, the speed may be a factor in some of those cases.
So General J.R. Vines, the Multinational Corps commander, and General Casey, the Multinational Force commander in Iraq, have asked that we look at driver training and any kind of capabilities in the vehicle that might cause rollovers.
The fact is these Humvees, the up-armored Level One type, have been specifically designed so that they have a lower center of gravity, so they're not prone to tipping over.
But we're looking at all aspects to see of trying to get at what we think the problem may be.
BLITZER: So some of these drivers might need a refresher course in how to drive sort of an improvised armor-plated car.
WHITCOMB: Yes, sir, and we're looking at that. Should we have some of those systems back in the United States, for example, for home-station training? Should we have some here? Should we reinforce our drivers' training? It's a multidimensional look at what the challenge is and then how we can work it.
BLITZER: Looking back to that famous question, December 8th -- you were here. That soldier asking Secretary Rumsfeld that question. Did that speed up the process of getting armor on these vehicles? In other words, was it a good thing he asked that question?
WHITCOMB: Sir, I don't think it was -- I don't think it sped it up. I mean, it was a fair question because that was a townhall meeting. As you know, the secretary does these much more than any previous secretary has, goes out to the troops and opens up to them. So that was a fair question.
It did not speed up what we were doing. As I say, we had been looking at this since the fall of 2003. We've been on a glide path. We've gone from a handful of production a month to well over 450. We're higher than that now.
And I have not seen anything -- and as I said back then, I got what I need. The money is not an issue. And the time is not an issue to prep this particular fleet.
BLITZER: So many American troops and others have been killed by those improvised explosive devices. I know you're working very hard to come up with some new technology, some new tactics to deal with this problem because so many of these convoys are going through such incredibly dangerous areas.
What can you share with our viewers on how you're dealing with these IEDs?
WHITCOMB: Well, it's really a great question, and it goes back to -- up-armoring is but a piece of this success against this kind of attack.
One, we've got a smart enemy. They look at what we do, and they're able to turn their techniques and tactics very quickly.
But when we go back again to July of 2003, one of the first things we did was evaluate what our tactics were.
How did we run convoy operations? How did we go through towns? And we were able to correct some things that were dependent on what the enemy did.
The second piece, of course, is this up-armoring project that we have for our wheeled fleet, and I think we've hit that.
The third piece of it has to do with technology. And while I won't go into the specifics, it gets to being able to detect where the enemy might be in placing an IED, being able to detonate it before the friendly forces get there and then being able to focus in and kill the individual or take the individual, either after they've done it, preferably before they've done it, and even more preferably, where they're building it back in a house or a warehouse somewhere spread around the country.
It runs a gamut from being able to detect changes in the earth that occurs over time to being able to, as I say, pre-detonate and those types of technological solutions.
BLITZER: We'll have more of my conversation with Lieutenant General Steven Whitcomb in Kuwait City. That's coming up. We'll talk about the second anniversary of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
Also, two U.S. senators standing by to give us their assessment as well.
Plus, President Bush heads back to Washington early from Texas as Congress meets for a rare weekend session to debate the fate of Terri Schiavo. We'll get a live update and reaction from Congress.
Our special LATE EDITION from Kuwait City continues right after this.
BLITZER: Our Web question of the week asks this: Was military action in Iraq justified? You can cast your vote. Simply go to cnn.com/lateedition. We'll have the results later in this program.
Still ahead, more of my interview with the top U.S. Army commander in Kuwait, Lieutenant General Steven Whitcomb.
Plus, the latest on Terri Schiavo case.
You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special "Late Edition," live from Kuwait City on this, the second anniversary of the start of the U.S.- led war in Iraq.
Here's part two of my interview earlier today here in Kuwait with three-star general Lieutenant General Stephen Whitcomb. He's the top U.S. Army commander in Kuwait.
BLITZER: You've been involved in this war from day one. Now two years later, is it getting better or is it getting worse in terms of the insurgency?
You said they're getting smarter, the insurgents, they're getting more lethal. What's your assessment right now?
WHITCOMB: I remain optimistic, I think, as the world is. What's phenomenal to me, as I kind of think about this, is just a couple days over two years ago the Iraqi people were suppressed and oppressed by a regime that murdered hundreds of thousands and buried them in mass graves. And in that two-year period we have successfully transitioned an interim government in Iraq.
Of course, as you know, the 30th of January this year, we've had elections, very successful by international standards, not just the United States standards. And then last week the transitional national assembly came together in their first meeting.
So from a political side Iraq is now doing things that were never dreamed of doing under the previous regime.
From the military standpoint, we still have an insurgency. And in fighting insurgents, that will take heavy participation by the Iraqis themselves and the some 145,000 Iraqi security force, troops, police, border patrol folks that are on duty as well as the international community.
The other piece is the former regime elements that do in fact still want to return to Saddamism, if you will.
And then the third category are the terrorists, those that have come outside the country and have a vested interest in disrupting for no reason other than their own purposes what goes on in Iraq.
BLITZER: So is the insurgency intensified? WHITCOMB: Sir, I don't think it's intensified. I think we are having success in that. We're getting more and more Iraqis trained -- the security force piece. We're having more and more Iraqis involved in their governmental process.
As the government matures with the ministries -- and not just military but the other ministries and the government itself -- the coalition stays strong in terms of what our fight is.
And I think most importantly, because this is an Iraqi people issue of more and more Iraqis discovering that they don't need this type of disruption of their lives, we're having more of them come forward. And that's what's a very critical piece for an insurgency.
BLITZER: On March 9th, Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois was at a Senate defense committee hearing and he said this -- let me read it to you specifically -- he said, "We've lost some soldiers because there was no place to turn for a tourniquet, a basic tourniquet."
Is that true that you don't have enough tourniquet kits to save the lives of U.S. soldiers?
WHITCOMB: Sir, I think, and I won't speak for the senator, but we do have tourniquets. Every soldier has the basic tourniquet.
What we're working on now, and have been for the last couple years, is what is the high-end model that can be used in that first couple of minutes when a soldier has a traumatic injury such as a traumatic loss of a limb or a groin injury or femur injury that are very difficult to work with.
What we've done for the last two years is do two things or a couple of things.
The first is try and find a system that an anchor or a truck driver, a nonmedic, is going to be able to use because some of these modern systems require a bit of training.
The second factor is to be able to do something so that if I lose an arm I'm able to self-administer or provide the aid to myself, and the third is to be able to find a system that doesn't do more damage because either you're not trained or it's complex enough.
So we have been working through that.
We've got a system, a tourniquet that's been identified, which is being procured in the kinds of numbers we need. I believe we'll have about 170,000 in the theater by July of this year, by this summer. And so we will issue those.
But the most important piece is not the piece of kit itself; it's to ensure that our soldiers are properly trained and can best capitalize and make use of that piece of equipment.
BLITZER: We're almost out of time, General. But I want to ask a question about the relationship of the host country here, Kuwait. There have been reports, as you know in the papers lately that the Kuwaitis are getting sensitive about this pretty significant U.S. military presence.
They've been providing oil, for example, for the last couple years to U.S. troops at no expense for all the convoys going in. Are they moving away from that? Do they want to be reimbursed now for the oil they provide the U.S. Army?
WHITCOMB: First thing, sir, I'd say Kuwait remains a very critical and strong ally since 1991 and actually before. They've been essential to the period of between the war '91 to 2001 and have again stepped up in the last couple of years.
And so I don't see any moving away from that kind of special relationship that they have with the United States.
It is logical and natural, I think, as conditions change, as the situation changes in Iraq, for countries to have discussions about what's the level of support that's required and what's the level of support that's being provided.
And I think that's what will take place in Washington over the course of the next couple of weeks or several months.
BLITZER: So they're shifting their attitude to a certain degree. Is that fair?
WHITCOMB: Sir, I don't think they're necessarily shifting their attitude. I just think they're open for discussion with our government on how we position ourselves in this region, not only now for today's contingencies, but also for the future. So I think it's in a broader context.
BLITZER: But can you clarify the issue of reimbursement for oil?
WHITCOMB: Sir, I can't. That's part of the discussion. I can't clarify it in terms of what the answer is going to be. I think that's part of the broader discussion that our two governments will have.
BLITZER: One final question...
WHITCOMB: Yes, sir.
BLITZER: Do you see light at the end of the tunnel?
WHITCOMB: Sir, I absolutely do. I think in years that for Americans that have died here, I think coalition partners that have died here and paid that ultimate sacrifice will feel that it's worthwhile.
The two troops that I gave Purple Hearts to yesterday, that earned those purple hearts, felt committed to what they'd done. They paid some sacrifice. They were proud because they knew that the end result, the Iraqis in this region would be more stable and more prosperous.
BLITZER: General, thanks for your sacrifice. Thanks for your work. Good luck to you and all the men and women you command.
WHITCOMB: Thank you, sir.
BLITZER: Up next we'll get a quick check of what's in the news right now. Then two U.S. senators join us to assess: Should there be an exit strategy, an exit date for U.S. troops in Iraq on this, the second anniversary of the war?
We'll also ask the senators about the battle involving Terri Schiavo. What role, if any, should Congress play in this polarizing case?
More of our special LATE EDITION right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARY SCHINDLER, MOTHER OF TERRI SCHIAVO: President Bush, politicians, and Washington: Please, please, please, save my little girl.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Mary Schindler, the mother of Terri Schiavo, appealing to everyone to try to save her daughter. The feeding tube was disconnected on Friday -- 41-year-old Terri Schiavo.
And today, the U.S. Congress meeting in a rare Sunday session to consider action.
It's a very, very puzzling and complicated debate, a very emotional debate that is unfolding. And the president of the United States heading back from his ranch in Texas to Washington to be ready to sign legislation into law if it comes down to that.
Joining us now on "Late Edition," two U.S. senators to discuss this, as well as the second anniversary of the war in Iraq.
In his home state of Michigan, Senator Carl Levin: He is joining us. And in his home state, Republican Senator John Sununu. Both influential members of the Congress.
Senator Levin, first to you: Will you vote to reinsert, reconnect that feeding tube for Terri Schiavo which was disconnected on Friday?
LEVIN: I think it's unwise for Congress to intervene in a very deeply personal matter such as this. There are many, many such individual cases that exist around the country that are in the courts. This one has been in the courts for 12 years, so I don't think it's wise as a general matter for Congress to intervene in these specific cases. However, Wolf, if Congress is going to intervene, it is critically important that we not try to prejudge the outcome, that we not try to restrict the discretion of a federal judge and that we make it clear, as this bill now does, as a result of some modifications, that the federal judge would determine whether or not there is an existing constitutional or federal statutory right which has been violated here or which can be invoked in order to protect her.
So if there is going to be this kind of an intervention and I think it's a mistake, at least it should be carefully constructed so, again, it does not restrict discretion on part of the federal judge or require -- for instance -- he issue a stay.
At one point the Senate bill and the House bill required that the federal court issue a stay. We have now decided not to put that explicit language in there and allow the court to exercise the type of discretion on that matter that it ordinarily would under existing federal rules.
BLITZER: All right.
What about you, Senator Sununu? Where do you stand on this very emotional, sensitive issue?
SUNUNU: I think Senator Levin has made the fair point that Congress isn't going to decide the case. But given the circumstances of the complex nature, the fact that this is life and death, and we have a mother and siblings who have been clear in their willingness to care for Terri Schiavo, we ought to allow them to have the circumstances in their case reviewed in federal court before Terri Schiavo is left to die.
And I think that's why you see the extraordinary effort being made to make sure that this legislation is dealt with. We passed it in the Senate before we went out. I think the House will pass a very similar measure today or late tonight and send it on to the president.
BLITZER: There was a GOP memo that's been published, widely circulated, Senator Sununu, that seems to suggest that some Republicans want to score political points by bringing this issue to the floor. Among other things, it says this is an important moral issue, and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue.
And it goes on to say this is a great political issue because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a co-sponsor. He's a Democrat. And this is a tough issue for Democrats.
Is this appropriate to use this issue now as political fodder to try to score political points?
SUNUNU: I certainly don't think it's necessary. I think on any issue you'll find people at either extreme who look for an opportunity to advance a political position. This is a case of life and death. It's as dramatic and emotional an issue as Congress has to deal with. The measure that passed the Senate last week did so on a voice vote. I think it was generally considered quite bipartisan. I think whatever comes out of the House will similarly be supported by people on both sides of the aisle.
There will be concerns or objections that might be raised. But at the end of the day, I think giving a hearing in federal court in this specific case is the least that we can do.
BLITZER: Senator Levin, the parents say, the brother of Terri Schiavo, they say she can communicate. She smiles. She seems to be responding to what they're saying. They insist, and despite some strong opinions from other doctors that she's in what they call persistent vegetative state, they believe she is very, very much alive.
What's wrong with giving her this opportunity to go ahead, if the parents want to deal with her, take care of her, what's wrong with that?
LEVIN: Well, that's what courts are here for: to make those kind of very difficult determinations. There's obviously a different point of view that they have to resolve. The state courts, where this type of matter usually resides, the state court in Florida has had this matter for 12 years.
The Supreme Court has decided not to intervene. And it seems to me that this belongs in the courts. It has been in the courts. And now there will be an opportunity for a federal court to review this matter and decide whether or not the courts previously in the state were wrong and whether or not there's a violation of a constitutional right or a federal statutory right here, which would take place if in fact she were removed from life support.
But if there is a federal constitutional right or a federal statutory right which would be violated by removing the tube, then it seems to me a federal court should act, but I don't know that such a right exists. That's what we have courts for.
BLITZER: All right.
Senator Levin, Senator Sununu, please stand by.
We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll talk about this second anniversary of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Their assessments: Was it worth it? And is there an exit strategy for some 150,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq.
A quick break. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're live in Kuwait City on this the second anniversary of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
Senator Sununu, looking at the exit strategy right now, do you see an exit strategy in Iraq? The U.S. military clearly deeply, deeply, deeply involved in what's happening here in Kuwait, the staging point for almost all the U.S. troops in Iraq.
How much longer do you think U.S. troops are going to have to remain in Iraq?
SUNUNU: I don't think you can predict a precise date. And let's remember: An exit date is not an exit strategy.
We have an exit strategy, and it consists of establishing a transitional government, investing in reconstruction activities, in training an Iraqi security force that will be prepared to take responsibility in that country, conducting elections, which has been done successfully, and allowing that elected representational body to craft a permanent constitution and a permanent law.
At that point, when we have a stable government and Iraqi security forces that have been trained to take over those security responsibilities, we can and will begin withdrawing U.S. troops. That's a strategy.
Now, that's what we have in place right now. And critics can argue that things need to be modified or changed or we're not emphasizing the right set of priorities, but it is a clear strategy. And with the success of the elections, I think it continues to move along apace.
BLITZER: How much longer do you believe, Senator Levin, U.S. troops are going to be engaged in warfare in Iraq?
LEVIN: I wonder, Wolf, if I could just take 10 seconds to answer the question you did not ask me about that GOP memo to simply say that, if in fact that memo which said that the Schiavo matter should be made a political matter, is in fact a real memo, it will backfire on the person that wrote that memo, or on the Republicans, if they embrace it.
The people do not want that issue to be politicized. And I want to leave it, if I could, at that and move on to your question about how long we will be here in Iraq.
Hopefully the Iraqis will take over the responsibility quicker rather than later, because it is their country. And they must be as invested in their country as we are, they must be willing to bleed for their country. We can open the door, which we have for them, but they must walk through that door.
And to me it is critical that the new Iraqi government, as one of their first actions, when this new government is put in place -- and that will hopefully be within the next few weeks -- that one of their first actions will be to invite the international community, including the United States and including Muslim nations, to have forces in their country, because the identification of us by our opponents and by the enemy as an occupying power, a Western occupier of a Muslim country, is hurting, it is playing right into the propaganda hands of the terrorists. And in order to change that characterization from an occupier to an ally, that new Iraqi government should invite us expressly to be there along with other Muslim countries. And hopefully then some Muslim countries will respond to that invitation.
BLITZER: We're going to have to leave it right there.
Senator Levin, thanks for joining us.
Senator Sununu, thanks to you as well. Always a good discussion with both of you.
We'll take another quick break.
When we come back, we'll take a look at what the latest is from Iraq itself. I'll speak live with Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari.
And our Web question of the week is this: Was military action in Iraq justified? You can still vote. Go to cnn.com\lateedition. More of our special LATE EDITION from Kuwait City right after this.
BLITZER: This is a special "Late Edition," live from Kuwait City.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNIDENTIFIED): Under the legislation we will soon consider, Terri Schiavo will have another chance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNIDENTIFIED): We are confident that this compromise addresses everyone's concerns.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The right to life: Washington weighs in. The president returns, Congress convenes. Should Terri Schiavo be saved? We'll talk with members of Congress playing a pivotal part in this battle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE: Freedom is a powerful force. And when unleashed, it'll continue its march.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Two years after invasion of Iraq, we'll bet perspective from Kuwait, a country formerly terrorized by the Saddam Hussein regime. Iraq prepares to select a new government. We'll get the latest on the country's future from Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're covering all those stories, the Terri Schiavo story. We're standing by for the U.S. House of Representatives to convene a rare Sunday session. We'll go to the White House right after a short recap of the news.
This is a live picture right now from the U.S. House of Representatives.
You see the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, the top of your screen, convening the House of Representatives on this Sunday to see what, if anything, the U.S. Congress can do to have that feeding tube for Terri Schiavo reconnected.
It was disconnected 48 hours ago on Friday. Let's listen as this rare Sunday session gets under way.
(BEGIN LIVE HOUSE GALLERY AUDIO)
(UNIDENTIFIED): ... the honorable speaker, House of Representatives. Sir, pursuant to the remission granted in clause 2-H of rule 2 of the rules of the U.S. House of representatives, the clerk received the following message from the secretary of the Senate on March 17, 2005, at 10:15 p.m., that the Senate agreed to, without amendment, Senate 653, signed, "Sincerely, Jeff Trandahl, clerk of the House."
The honorable, the speaker House of Representatives, sir, pursuant to the permission granted in clause 2H of Rule 2 of the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives, the clerk received the following message from the secretary of the Senate on March 19th, 2005, at 6:45 p.m., that the Senate passed without amendment House concurrent resolution 103, signed, "Sincerely, Gerasimos C. Vans, deputy clerk."
(UNIDENTIFIED): The Chair lays before the House, the text, the formal notification sent to the members on Saturday March 19, 2005, the reassembling of the House.
"Dear Colleague, pursuant to Section 2 of House Concurrent Resolution 103, after consultation with the minority leader of the House of Representatives and the minority leader of the Senate, we hereby notify the members of the House of Representatives to reassemble at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 20, 2005, the Senate already being in session.
Signed, "J. Dennis Hastert, speaker of the House, William H. Frist, M.D., majority leader of the Senate."
(UNIDENTIFIED) The prayer will be offered by the guest chaplain, Reverend Donald Christian (ph), pastor, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Fairfax, VA.
CHRISTIAN (?): Almighty God, we believe that the hopes and the fears of all of the years are met in you this day: the hopes that peace will reign, the hopes that health will be maintained, the hopes that all may find a place to call home, the hopes that firm justice will be accompanied by reasonable mercy.
But our fears are also met in you, oh, God: the fears of most that conflict will never abate; the fears of many that health will be taken and with it wealth, which will leave us destitute and destroyed; the fears of some that work and wages will be lost, and they will be homeless; the fears of a few that there is more justice for some than for others.
So we pray, oh, God. Use the words and the works of all called to be decision makers so that the terrorized may always have a voice, the suffering will always have an advocate, the laborer will always find a place to call home and mercy will be meted out and equal measure with justice for all and prejudice towards none. Amen.
(UNIDENTIFIED): Pursuant to Clause 12 A, Rule 1, the House will stand in recess subject to the call of the Chair.
(END LIVE HOUSE GALLERY AUDIO)
BLITZER: And, so there it is, the U.S. House of Representatives has decided to recess right now.
Let's bring in our Congressional correspondent, Joe Johns. He's following all the parliamentary maneuvering underway. Some of it getting rather complicated on this very emotional and sensitive issue.
Joe, explain to our viewers in the United States and around the world what the House of Representatives is doing.
JOHNS: Well, at 1:00 p.m. they were supposed to come into session today.
Wolf, as you saw, they just did. But the procedures of the House of Representatives are now getting in the way of this attempt to pass this legislation about Terri Schiavo that would allow her to have that feeding tube reinserted and allow her parents, of course, standing to go to federal court in this case.
The rules are blocking the ability of House Republicans to bring this up, because it has become clear to all of them that there will be an objection, perhaps several objections, from Democrats, to bringing this bill up at this time.
What that means is the House of Representatives simply will have to stand down until Monday.
As a matter of fact, one minute after midnight tonight, the House of Representatives is expected to reconvene and try again to pass this bill. Now, the question, of course, this is supposed to be a recess weekend.
So we're told by the leadership that they sent early word out to members of Congress all over the country and even the world, telling them they may be required back in Washington, D.C., at midnight, meaning buses, planes, trains, automobiles, however you can get here, get here to vote at midnight.
So that's what they are hoping, that they will have the required 218 votes tonight to constitute a quorum. At that time they'll need two-thirds of the people present to pass the bill.
The Senate, of course, Wolf, standing by, waiting to hear word from the House in order to hopefully, they say, wave this bill through.
BLITZER: All right. Joe Johns explaining what's happening in the House of Representatives. The president of the United States, cutting short his stay at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, to head back to Washington. He's getting ready to leave in about an hour or so from now.
Let's head over to the White House. Elaine Quijano standing by with developments on that part of the story.
QUIJANO: Hello to you, Wolf. That's right. President Bush was to have spent today at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, as part of the Easter recess. Instead, as you mentioned, he will be heading back here to Washington essentially to wait things out as Congress works on that legislation.
White House Spokesman Scott McClellan saying that the president feels the Terri Schiavo case is about defending life and that the president very much wants to sign a measure as quickly as possible if and when one is passed.
Now, administration officials have said repeatedly the president supports a culture of life. And the president himself in a statement last week said he believes that culture of life should extend to people with disabilities.
And so President Bush set to return to the White House just a few hours from now, later this afternoon fully prepared to sign legislation aimed at keeping Terri Schiavo alive.
BLITZER: Elaine Quijano, reporting from the White House.
Elaine, thank you very much.
Our Bob Franken is down in Florida, outside the hospice where Terri Schiavo has been for several, several years -- Terri Schiavo's feeding tube having been removed on Friday.
Give us a scene setter, Bob. What's happening there? FRANKEN: Well, the family, the blood family of Terri Schiavo, has been waging an intense campaign using the public images. Here just a short while ago, Terri Schiavo's father, Robert Schindler, came out and made an impromptu visit to some of the supporters of their efforts to get the feeding tube reinstalled. An effort where cameras were welcomed. You show him going around thanking everybody.
Meanwhile, all of this is pressure on Congress, and particularly aimed at the recalcitrant members of Congress. Earlier, Terri Schiavo's mother, Mary Schindler, came out and addressed that specifically.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARY SCHINDLER: I'm pleading with the moms and the dads to call their Congressmen and help them pass this bill for Terri. It's very, very important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKEN: And of course, on the other side of this bitter family dispute, the father, the husband, rather, of Terri Schiavo, Michael Schiavo, who has been working so long for a peaceful end to his wife's life. He, too, has strong feelings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL SCHIAVO: I fought this long for Terri and I love her dearly. And I made that promise to her and I'm going to hold it out. Right now I'm taking it day by day, moment by moment, but I'm going stay right by her side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKEN: And at the moment, the feeding tube has been removed from Terri Schiavo's body, but there is a hope in the family here, the immediate blood family, it will be soon be reattached if complications can be worked out in Congress.
BLITZER: And we'll be watching all of these developments in Congress very closely. Bob Franken, our man on the scene in Florida on this story. A very sensitive, complicated story. Coming up later on "Late Edition," I'll speak with two key members of the House of Representatives who strongly disagree on this pending legislation. But let's move on.
Other news we're following. This, the second anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The removal of Saddam Hussein from power. Only in recent days the new Iraqi assembly, the new Iraqi parliament, has convened. Joining us now live from Baghdad, the interim foreign minister of Iraq, Hoshyar Zebari.
Mr. Minister, welcome to LATE EDITION.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for joining us, especially on this second anniversary of the start of the war.
How much longer do you believe it will be before the new Iraqi government is established?
ZEBARI: Wolf, I think we are very close to finalizing a deal on the formation of the new Iraqi transitional government. Our talks, our negotiation with the different parliamentary groups, the assembly are continuing, actually. They are not bogged down. They are not gridlocked. I think we are making movement, and I'm optimistic.
I'm a member of the negotiating team. We believe we will reach an agreement very soon. Hopefully before the end of March we will have a complete package to get on with the job. And this time we are spending now on these talks will help us to save time in fact in the future because, if we go to the assembly without a deal, without a package, it may consume more time.
But I reassure you and the Iraqi public also that we are very, very close to a deal on the new government.
BLITZER: Is it a done deal that Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Shiite leader, will emerge as the new prime minister of Iraq?
ZEBARI: Dr. Ibrahim al-Jaafari has been nominated by the United Iraqi Alliance as their nominee for the assembly. Remember that the Alliance List had the majority of votes. They had over 140, maybe 148 seats in the assembly. But alone they cannot form a government.
So they need to negotiate with other partners to form a coalition government.
We are also reaching out to other groups, in fact to Al Iraqiyah, Dr. Allawi, to the Sunni Arabs, in order to make this new government truly representative and a government of national unity, especially this transitional year. We have to write a constitution, to draft it, to ratify it and then have another election at the end of the year.
So we need the involvement and the engagement of all Iraqis in this process.
BLITZER: He's quoted in the new issue of Der Spiegel, the German publication, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, as saying the Sharia Islamic law, should be the law of the new Iraq. How do you feel about that?
ZEBARI: Well, I think opinions here are divided, but this issue and many other issues that affect the future of Iraq will be addressed in the constitutional debate and process that we need to start after the formation of the government.
Of course, Iraq is a Muslim country. You have to respect the Islamic identity of the country. But really there has been a fierce debate in the country whether Islam should be the main source, the only source of legislation or one of the sources of legislation.
I mean, here we have to settle this among ourselves as Iraqis in the constitutional debate that will come later. BLITZER: One final question, Mr. Minister: How much longer do you believe it will be necessary for the United States to maintain a military force inside Iraq?
ZEBARI: Well, I personally believe they have been doing an admirable job, and the Iraqi people are grateful for their sacrifices and what they have achieved. But at the same time we believe that their stay in Iraq is tied to the build-up process of Iraqi military, police and security forces.
The sooner our forces will reach a level that we will be self- sufficient or can depend on ourselves, then really there would be no need for these forces to stay any longer.
And we are performing better these days. In fact, all the indications are that the Iraqi training programs, the equipment, the enlargement of these forces is moving ahead.
But in the Security Council Resolution 1546 also there is some timetable for the mandate of these forces. I think we need to observe that at the same time. But for the time being I think their presence still is needed. And is necessary.
BLITZER: Hoshyar Zebari is the foreign minister, or the interim foreign minister of Iraq. He's anxious, as is the rest of the country, indeed much of the world, to see this new Iraqi government emerge.
Thanks very much, Mr. Minister, for joining us on this special LATE EDITION live from the Persian Gulf.
When we come back, we'll get the Kuwaiti perspective. And later, more on Terri Schiavo. Last-minute Congressional maneuvering to try to save her life. We'll go back to Washington, two members of Congress standing by on that.
Our special LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special "Late Edition," live from Kuwait City on this, the second anniversary of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
We're going back to Washington shortly. There are important developments happening in the Terri Schiavo case. Expecting a news conference from Capitol Hill: Democrats getting ready to explain what they have in mind.
Also, we'll go down to Florida, Terri Schiavo's father, Robert Schindler, standing by to speak out as well.
When that happens, we'll bring it to you.
But on this, the second anniversary of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, we're here in Kuwait City. Joining us now live here in Kuwait is the president of the American University of Kuwait, Shafeeq Ghabra.
Shafeeq, thanks very much for joining us, an old friend in Kuwait. Two years after the war, do Kuwaitis feel more or less secure now?
SHAFEEQ GHABRA, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN UNIV. KUWAIT: Kuwaitis feel more secure with Saddam gone. With potential changes in Iraq down the line that will bring stability, with a region that is beginning to think about deepening a process of development and a process of change, Kuwait feels that it is ready to open up and also ready to reinvest in its structure and itself.
BLITZER: Has Kuwait done well over these past two years? Because there's a very significant, robust U.S. Military presence here, as you well know. But there have been some incidents of terrorism, at least some cells have been rounded up?
GHABRA: Kuwait is going through a lot. There are all kinds of debates and discussions on economic changes, opening up the economy. Women's rights is an issue today in Kuwait. Investing in the country...
BLITZER: Women's rights in Kuwait is a burning issue...
BLITZER: It's a hot issue. What's the problem? Are there still the old-timers who don't want to see women allowed to vote, women allowed to go out and do what women around the world do?
GHABRA: Well, that's the case always whenever you have women's rights an issue anywhere in the world in history, you've had these debates.
But Kuwait now is ready to move on. And I believe that the women's right to vote and be elected to office is going to pass. And this will deepen the Kuwaiti democratic process.
BLITZER: You know the situation in Iraq very well. You live right next door. What is your sense, what's going to happen there over the next six months to a year?
GHABRA: See, Iraq has gone through a major change after a long historical experience with dictatorship. For Iraqis to come around, it's going to take time. It's not going to be easy, as you can see.
There are elections that have taken place. There is a national assembly. There is a constitution that I believe will be at one point written and ratified.
The Iraqis will agree on a process. But it will be painful. It will be negotiations on every corner...
BLITZER: But can Iraqi Kurds, Iraqi Shiites, Iraqi Sunnis, work together, or is there a danger of a civil war and a split of Iraq into various ethnics regions?
GHABRA: I think the danger of violence is there. The danger of ethnic conflict is there.
However, so far I see the Iraqis being able to manage their differences and come to an agreement even in the Sunni camp. I do see lots of differences. And there has been recent meetings that suggest Sunnis also seek some sort of understanding with the rest of Iraq.
BLITZER: Is the insurgency in Iraq getting worse or is it easing up?
GHABRA: I think the insurgency in Iraq will have no future. It's a blocked future. And once there is an agreement between Sunnis, Kurds, and Sunnis and Kurds and Shias and Iraqis are brought into a process, that process becomes clearer and clearer. You will see the insurgency get just out of the way.
BLITZER: Is the insurgency homegrown? Are these primarily Iraqis, Saddam loyalists, or are these foreign fighters coming in to try to go after the Iraqis who cooperate with the U.S. and the U.S. and its coalition partners?
GHABRA: It's a combination of both. There is a regional perspective on it. There is a regional part of it. But it is equally a homegrown related to what's what certain elements of the form other regime lost and how that has reflected itself at the grassroots level.
Yet, there is no future to such an insurgency. It has to be translated into a political understanding of Iraq, democratic and future outlook.
You and I are sitting here in the Persian Gulf region. Recently there were elections in Afghanistan, elections in Iraq. The Palestinians had their elections. There are going to be elections in Lebanon.
We see efforts to get democracy going. Is this a realistic goal, to really see democracy flourish in the Arab and the Muslim world, or is unrealistic?
I think the future of the Arab world and the trend in the Arab world is to open up. It's toward pluralism It's toward recognizing differences. It's toward managing differences.
Look at demonstrations in Lebanon with flowers and with anger controlled, expression -- very civilized expression of anger where millions and hundreds of thousands of people came together -- you see there is a transformation in the Arab world that has to do with people being fed up with single-party rule, with too much corruption, looking for a brighter future.
GHABRA: The region is ready to make that move. It's not going to be easy. And it's not going to be immediate. It must take a long- term process, but the process has begun. BLITZER: One final question: Saddam Hussein. It wasn't long ago, 1990, when he invaded your country here in Kuwait, and the area was brutalized for months and months until the first Gulf War.
What will Kuwaitis be feeling once this trial of Saddam Hussein begins? And Iraqis are saying it probably will begin this year. What will be the emotions when people in Kuwait, Kuwaitis see Saddam Hussein in a trial?
GHABRA: I think emotions in Kuwait will be a feeling of how all of that chapter of pain and agony expressed itself from Kuwait -- hundreds of people who died and hundreds of prisoners who died.
But there will be lots of pain as well in Iraq. And there will be lots of feelings of unity between Kuwaitis and Iraqis to the amount of pain that Saddam did cause for Kurds, Shias and Sunnis, as well as Kuwaitis, among other people in the region -- among Iranians as well.
BLITZER: Shafeeq Ghabra is the president of the American University of Kuwait.
Shafeeq, thanks very much for joining us.
GHABRA: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: We're going take another quick break. When we come back, we'll check all of the latest headlines. We'll go to the CNN Center in Atlanta for that.
Then, more on Terri Schiavo. What's the latest on that case? Two U.S. Congressmen with very different perspectives, they're standing by to join us. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
CAPTAIN MICHAEL BANKS: Hi, this is Captain Michael Banks from Brownsville, Tennessee. I'd like to say hi to my wife, Sarah Beth (ph), my kids Sam and Wesley and Jeff (ph). See you in about six months. I love you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (OFF-MIKE) I just want to say hello to my mom and my dad and say I miss you and I'll see you guys soon. And of course a special shout-out to my little baby boy, Darien (ph). Mommy loves you.
BLITZER: Welcome back. It's an extraordinary day, an extraordinary day in Washington involving the case of Terri Schiavo. You're looking live at House Democrats. They're holding a news conference right now, outlining their strategy on this legislative maneuvering. Let's listen in.
(LIVE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AUDIO)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... families, and the impact of the debate that the Congress is about to have extends far beyond Terri Schiavo, in my judgment. If this Congress were to act on this legislation without debate, why even have a Congress at all?
Today there are members of this Congress trying to appoint this Congress as a judge and jury. This case is a tragedy, but what Congress is about to commit is another tragedy. These actions today are a clear threat to our democracy.
There is a reason why our forefathers created three branches of government.
Congress is about to overturn the separation of powers by disregarding the laws of Florida, the decisions of a judge that have never been reversed on appeal.
The United States Congress is on the verge of telling states and courts that their decisions and rules do not matter.
The United States Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court have agreed that the rulings in the Terri Schiavo case were fair.
Today's Congress should be following the law, not trampling on the Constitution.
If we do not draw the line today in the sand, there is no limit to what democratic principles this Congress may trample on next.
Let me just close by saying this. Like many Floridians, I've been following this case for years, and my views today are what they always have been. This case should be about Terri Schiavo's will as interpreted by the courts, the will of God, and not the will of the United States Congress.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz? U.S. REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): Thank you. I'm Debbie Wasserman Schultz. I represent the 20th District in Florida, and I've been dealing with this case, tragically, for more than two years.
I served in the Florida Senate in October of 2003, during the last time that a legislative body inserted itself into this tragic personal and private family matter. It was inappropriate and outrageous then, and it remains inappropriate for the United States Congress or any legislative body to insert itself into a gut- wrenching, angst-ridden tragedy that should be between family members.
We need to make sure that Terri's wishes are paramount here. And that is not what is going to be done if the United States Congress decides to act.
It is inappropriate for a legislative body or for the federal government or any elected official to be stepping in between a husband and parents and other family members who have been going through the legal process that is set up in the state of Florida to deal with end- of-life decisions.
It is particularly hypocritical when you have people who say they advocate on behalf of the defense of marriage to now insert themselves in between a husband and his wife and what he and other family members believe that she said and a court upheld that she said during her life, that she would never have wished to be sustained in this type of a condition.
There are proponents of this legislation who have said that this is not what Terri's wishes would have been. It is not the Congress' place to say yes or no.
There has been a process set up in Florida to determine whether that was true, and I can tell you as a young person, no matter what age you are, think about the times that you have been a part of either a funeral or observing another family tragedy like this one, and said to yourself, "God forbid I was ever in that situation, I would never want to be sustained in that condition."
It is absolutely conceivable, and has been factually proven, that Terri said the very same thing, and we should be honoring her wishes. Congress, if we act, would be thumbing our nose at what was the final wish of one dying woman. That is totally inappropriate.
U.S. REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D-FL): Robert Wexler from Broward and Palm Beach Counties in Florida.
In essence, I believe we...
WEXLER: In essence, I believe...
WEXLER: I believe we stand in the shoes of Terri Schiavo. Florida courts, for seven years, 19 Florida judges, have participated in this legal process.
Florida courts, for seven years, have found by a standard of clear and convincing evidence that it is Terri Schiavo's wishes that she not remain in a permanent vegetative state.
It is important for the American people to understand that there are members of Congress that will stand up for Terri Schiavo and for her right to determine on her own, as it is defined and concluded by the Florida courts, what is just.
And it is not the place of Congress, at the eleventh hour, in the most abusive fashion, to undermine the Florida court system, particularly given the fact that it has been seven years and 19 judges who have participated. Thank you.
U.S. REP. JIM MORAN (D-VA): I'm Jim Moran. I represent Northern Virginia.
(END LIVE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AUDIO)
BLITZER: All right. So there it is. House Democrats continuing to speak out in opposition to legislation that would have that feeding tube reconnected to Terri Schiavo, the 41-year-old woman whose feeding tube was disconnected on Friday.
Democrats saying this is inappropriate for the U.S. Congress to take this action. You heard from Robert Wexler, Democrat of Florida, and other Florida representatives, Democrats all, speaking out.
Let's get some different perspective now. Republican Congressman David Weldon of Florida is joining us -- he's a medical doctor -- as is Bobby Schindler. He's the brother of Terri Schiavo. They're joining us from Capitol Hill right now.
Congressman Weldon, let me begin with you. Your Democratic colleagues say it's a clear-cut case that judges have decided, her husband has decided, the Supreme Court has decided to let this issue be adjudicated by the Florida courts. Give us your perspective why you believe all of them, including your judges in Florida, are wrong.
U.S. REP. DAVE WELDON (R-FL): Well, you know we had this case of John Couey who is alleged to have recently killed that young girl, not far from where Terri Schiavo is right now. And his case, after it works its way through the state courts, will be reviewed by the federal court, as will Scott Peterson's case.
My position from the start, when I originally introduced this legislation, was: Let's at least give Terri Schiavo the same benefit of the doubt and allow a federal review. And I thought there were a number of irregularities in this case to warrant that. Particularly some of the medical facts.
And I want to just point out, I know you just described this is a bunch of Democrats opposing what we're doing. But when I originally introduced the bill I had 30 Democrats as co-sponsors of this. And so this is not necessarily a Democrat/Republican fight. We have a lot of Democrats who are on board and want to do something about this.
What you're just seeing is a representative group, a small group, but I believe if we can just get a bill to the floor -- and they're blocking us getting a vote on the bill is what they're doing -- we'll get an overwhelming majority.
And remember, all we want to do is allow a federal review. It was portrayed by I think Representative Davis that we, the Congress, are trying to adjudicate this case, and he alleges some sort of bridge of the separation of power. We're just trying to give the federal bench some authority to actually review the facts here.
And I don't want to monopolize too much time, but there are a number of factual issues here that I believe really do warrant a federal review.
BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in Bobby Schindler. He's the brother of Terri Schiavo. He's been passionate and outspoken. Give me your reaction, Bobby Schindler, to what is happening in Washington today. BOBBY SCHINDLER, BROTHER OF TERRY SCHIAVO: Well, it's frustrating me. I don't think anybody really knows the facts of this case. This demands a federal review. If you look at how the judge in this case has acted throughout the case, these wishes that Terri made came seven years after her incident when she collapsed.
And interestingly enough, it came after Michael announced his engagement to the woman he's with now. He has been cohabiting with this woman for ten years, has two children. And my sister's wishes only surfaced after he announced that he intended to marry this woman.
And it is also interesting or important to point out that Michael would have received close to $1 million when this initially started if my sister would have died.
You have just doctor after doctor -- and I urge all of these Democrats that are opposing what's happening here to look at these doctors and how they are just asking to give Terri some rehabilitation and therapy. We believe this is Michael imposing his will on Terri.
There is nothing written anywhere that Terri would have wanted to die by starvation and dehydration. And we're asking simply for a federal review just like any convicted murderer would get if this was the same type of case.
BLITZER: Bobby Schindler, I spoke with Michael Schiavo's attorney on Friday and he said Michael Schiavo won't get a penny, that there's no money involved, that he's doing this as a matter of principle because he believes this is what his wife wanted.
SCHINDLER: Well, as I said, initially when Michael petitioned the courts and nobody expected this case to go on as it has, there was close to $1 million Michael would have inherited if Terri died. I don't know the financial situation of Terri's trust fund. This trust fund was intended to be used for rehabilitation and therapy as promised to a jury by Michael back in 1992.
This money now has been used to pay Michael's attorneys in an effort to kill her. These financial documents have been sealed by the court. And there are so many flaws with this case at the state level. As I said, it demands a federal judge to look at it. This does not save my sister's life. All it does is has a federal court, a federal judge look at the case to make sure the state court and state judge acted properly.
WELDON: Wolf, can I add something to that?
BLITZER: Yes, I want you to add something, Congressman Weldon, but as you do, I also want you to address the issue of this GOP memo that has surfaced. I'm sure you've seen it by now, suggesting that Republicans should jump all over this Terri Schiavo case because it's good politics. It energizes the anti-abortion base of the Republican party and the conservatives.
And I want you to address that, but go ahead and make your point. WELDON: Well, let me address that because that's been in the press a lot today. I -- that was not written by anybody on my staff, and if they had, they'd be fired.
I never approached this as a partisan issue. I had Jesse Jackson, Jr. on the bill. I had several other members of the black caucus. I got a whole bunch of Democrats on the bill, and I deliberately did not want to politicize this issue.
And just because one staffer wrote an inappropriate memo and circulated it around -- in my conversations with Tom DeLay, he has been saying to me over and over, let's not politicize this issue. And I certainly don't want to do that.
And I, frankly, think if we can just have a vote, we will get a majority or close to a majority of Democrats voting for doing something here.
And when I said earlier I wanted to just try to address a little bit of the facts in this case -- because Representative Davis kept saying that Florida law was adherent to, and this is -- we're trying to mainly get a federal review to make sure her constitutional rights of due process and equal protection were handled correctly.
But even under Florida law, as I understand it, if you abandon your wife, you take another common law wife, you essentially forfeit your rights to have any kind of say in a situation like this.
And so there are not only federal issues of due process and 14th Amendment protections that I think a federal court needs to look at, but I think, as well, they need to look at the facts involving Florida law.
And I think this case really calls for at least equal protection in the sense that somebody like Terri would get the same kind of rights as Scott Peterson would get, somebody who is on death row.
BLITZER: Well, are you saying, Congressman -- and I want Bobby Schindler to weigh in on this as well -- that from now on, whenever a case along these lines comes out across the United States, the U.S. Congress is going to want to...
BLITZER: ... get involved at a last-minute appeal
BLITZER: ... to prevent a feeding tube from being removed?
WELDON: No. All I have been trying to do is expand existing laws so that if you have no written advanced directives, and you have a dispute amongst the family members, and there is a death warrant from the bench, a judge's order, to withdraw food and water, that would allow a review in front of the federal court. And I think that is pretty narrow. It's pretty simple. And there, in reality, I understand Ron Wyden went to the floor of the Senate a few days ago and opined that there would be thousands and thousands of these cases.
I used to take care of patients like this. These cases are -- they are rare, perhaps not uncommon, but they are rare. And for them to actually migrate to the federal bench, I would guesstimate that they would be just a handful a year at the most, and most of these cases -- actually in my experience, most of the time the family agrees.
I have actually withdrawn food and water in certain circumstances, and usually the family recognizes a hopeless situation when one exists.
This girl is not hopeless. I mean, she -- I mentioned earlier I had a really big problem with some of the medical facts in this case. She is not in a vegetative state. I understand they're going to release some tapes today very, very clearly showing her trying to talk, and that is just not consistent with a vegetative state.
And so there's, I think, a lot that cries out for federal intervention here.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to have to leave it right there.
But Bobby Schindler, I'll give you a few seconds to just share with us your thoughts at this moment as the Congress considers what to do involving your sister.
B. SCHINDLER: Well, I certainly hope there could be some type of agreement. As I said, this case just demands a review.
Michael Schiavo has abandoned my sister. She has been warehoused now for over 12 years.
And we're simply asking, as our family has been asking from the beginning.
Michael, you have your own family. Go ahead and move on with your life. Please just give Terri back to us.
BLITZER: Bobby Schindler, thanks very much for joining us.
Congressman Weldon, thank you as well.
A very emotional, difficult, complex case -- we'll continue to watch it throughout the day and into the days to come.
We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: As you know, LATE EDITION is the last word in Sunday talk, but we always try to bring you some highlights from some of the other Sunday talk shows. On "Fox News Sunday," Republican Senator Mel Martinez of Florida insisted that he was not getting involved, together with other Republicans, in the Terri Schiavo case, out of politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SEN. MEL MARTINEZ (R-FL): This is not a political issue. This is an issue about saving a life. And, you know, you had a rare moment here where traditional Christian conservatives and the social conservatives have come together with people representing the disabled community, and those two forces have coalesced here to do something good. And I just don't think it's politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: On NBC's "Meet the Press," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, insisted that the war in Iraq has not stretched the U.S. military too thin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Retention has never been better in the active force and the reserve component. I mean, I enlisted 29 National Guardsmen several nights ago in Kabul, Afghanistan -- 29 at one fell swoop. The week before, they re- enlisted 50.
Retention is very good. We can respond, and we can respond with the number of people we need, with the right equipment, and we can fulfill our obligations under our national security strategy, and do exactly what our president expects us to be able to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: On CBS's "Face the Nation," the topic of baseball and steroids was high on the agenda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of us are to be drafting this, looking to see how major league baseball reacts to the hearings. If they come back and do nothing, I think you're going to see a standard throughout professional sports that will apply to all sports. Because you just can't count on the unions and management negotiating an agreement that's in the interests of the country and the fans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Congress exercises subpoena power and brings a player in front of a committee, does not grant immunity and then proceeds to inquire about topics that are potentially criminal, it puts the player in an extraordinarily difficult situation even if that player is completely innocent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Our Web question of the week asked this question: Was military action justified in Iraq? Let's take a look at the results, how you voted. So far, 13 percent of you said yes, 87 percent of you said no. Remember, though, this is not -- repeat, "not" -- a scientific poll.
I'll continue our coverage from here and the Persian Gulf throughout these coming days. We'll take a look at what has happened, what has not happened on this, the second anniversary of the start of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
I'm back Monday, twice a day, noon and 5:00 p.m.. Eastern. Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Kuwait City.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend.
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