Sunday, March 20, 2005

House Passes Schiavo Legislation

Not often will we openly disagree on this blog but I must take exception with what my esteemed friend Tim had to say earlier today. The House tonight, or this morning (depending on what coast you find yourself on), passed legislation allowing appeal of Schiavo's case up to federal courts. Her family, who previously lost in Florida State Court, will now undoubtedly appeal to federal court and in the short-term Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube will be reinserted.

I had to weigh this issue a great deal before arriving at my opinion. On one hand there is a clear case to be made for a state's rights sort of issue. On the other, there is a clear federal interest in protecting the life of Mrs. Schiavo. I have to side with the latter.

Article III of the U.S. Constitution provides for a Supreme Court and other lower federal courts that Congress may establish at a later time. It essentially left a skeleton of a judiciary and Congress then had to fill in the pieces . These pieces were filled in by the Judiciary Act of 1789. In it, Congress created the lower Courts and clarified federal jurisdiction. The Court system is entirely a creature of Congress. They therefore have the ability to statutorily enlarge or decrease the jurisdiction of the Courts, with the exception of the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction as provided for in the Constitution (it would take an amendment to alter this). Accordingly, the Congress is empowered with the power to do what it did tonight. Their actions were constitutional.

The second issue, which is almost as important, was whether or not they should act. I do not deny, and in fact support, that certain issues must be left to the states. They are often the proper guardian of the people's rights and should act accordingly. But tonight was different. While I must say that I would have preferred a sweeping piece of legislation to be passed by Congress (similar to what the House passed earlier this week), this narrowly tailored bill was not an unreasonable exercise of federal power. The government has recognized in cases dealing with life and death, time and again, that there should be recourse in federal courts for state rulings. The issue of life is too important not to grant people that recourse. I therefore concur with the 2/3 majority in the House tonight that voted for this legislation. It's not a perfect bill but it did the appropriate thing in this case.

I agree with Tim that the arguments made on both sides of the aisle tonight were quite shoddy. But because members of Congress did not say what I wanted them to say does not make me this legislation any less constitutional.

Additionally, to those that buy on to the states' rights argument in this case I would say the following: the state of Florida did act on this matter and passed legislation accordingly. Were it not for the actions of the Florida courts, invalidating that law, the Congress may have never needed to step in and intervene. Now, do two wrongs make a right (if that's what you believe occurred in this case)? Absolutely not. I just wanted to make sure to point out that the matter was left to the state until no further point of appeal could be made.

Who knows what the federal judge who hears this case will say. I have no way of knowing. But at least this way, Mrs. Schiavo's parents and family will have one more day in court.

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