GOP Reacts to Judge's Ruling Against Terri's Parents

By Jeff Johnson | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - President Bush's spokesman and Republican congressional leaders Tuesday expressed disappointment over a federal judge's rejection of an emergency request to reinsert Terri Schiavo's feeding tube.

Tuesday was the fourth straight day that the brain injured Florida woman has been without nutrition or hydration. Her husband, Michael Schiavo, last week won a legal battle to have the feeding tube removed and maintains that Terri would not have wanted to live in her present condition.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who was traveling with the president in Albuquerque, N.M., said Bush "would have preferred a different ruling" from U.S. District Court Judge James Whittemore, whose 13-page decision effectively dismissed the claims by Terri's parents, that their daughter's constitutional rights to due process and religious freedom had been denied by the State of Florida.

"We continue to stand on the side of defending life," McClellan said. "This ruling was one step in the process and we will see what comes of future proceedings."

Terri's parents immediately appealed Whittemore's ruling to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the controversy over whether Terri's feeding tube is reinserted may ultimately rest with the U.S. Supreme Court.

GOP congressional leaders, who had fast-tracked legislation to shift the controversy from a Florida court to the federal judiciary, were also frustrated by Whittemore's ruling.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said he was, "deeply disappointed by today's court decision that denies Terri Schiavo another chance to live.

"It is a sad day for all Americans who value the sanctity of life," Frist said. "I'm hopeful for a different result on appeal."

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) echoed Frist's hope "that the appeals process will rule differently.

"Life should be the top priority for those involved with Terri Schiavo while serious constitutional issues are being sorted out," Hastert said in a written statement. "I am very disappointed by this ruling and our hearts go out to Terri and her family."

Whittemore, in his ruling, acknowledged the "difficult and time-constrained circumstances." However, he added, "notwithstanding Congress's expressed interest in the welfare of Theresa Schiavo, this court is constrained to apply the law to the issues before it. As plaintiffs have not established a substantial likelihood of success on the merits, their motion for temporary restraining order must be denied."

While rejecting the Schindler family's legal claims, Whittemore also refused to order Terri's gastrostomy (nutrition and hydration or "g-tube") reinserted while they appeal to the next level.

The appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court will initially be reviewed by a three-judge panel. The losing party would then be expected to appeal to the full panel of the 11th Circuit judges and, then, to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Some Democrats continued Tuesday to criticize the legislative action that authorized the appeals. New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone, who voted against the legislation, said he thinks, "it was wrong for Congress to intervene," after the Florida courts had made their final ruling in the case.

"Once that determination is made, then that's the decision. Now you can appeal it, which was done. But for Congress to interfere in that, it doesn't make any sense," Pallone argued on Fox News Channel. "There might be thousands of these cases in a given period of time. Are we going to have a special bill for every one? That's not our place."

Missouri Republican Congressman Todd Akin disagreed, telling the network that Congress does have the necessary authority.

"It is the job of the U.S. Congress to set the jurisdiction of the federal courts," Akin said. "That's what we've done in this case."

The legal argument underpinning Akin's statement is based on several sections of the U.S. Constitution beginning with Article I Section 8 Clause 18. That portion of the document states that Congress has the power, "To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof."

The argument also invokes Article III Section 1 Clause 1, which declares that, "The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish." Section 2 Clause 2 of that same article states that, "the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make."

Finally, the 14th Amendment states, in part, that states shall not, "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."

Depriving Terri Schindler Schiavo of the due process of law is the precise accusation made against the Florida courts by Terri's parents.

To view the archive of the Cybercast News Service's coverage on Terri Schiavo, click here.

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