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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Minnesota Senators on Schiavo

Posted by: Hammer / 8:01 AM

Following up on this note from Upyernoz:
as rude pundit noted, the "unanimous" senate vote last night approving the terri schiavo bill was cast when exactly three senators were in the room.

over in the comments of his loaded mouth tas notes that Article I, Section 5, Clause 1 of the constitution states:

Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.(emphasis added)

How does the Strib cover this?
There was no roll call vote in the Senate, but Democrat Mark Dayton and Republican Norm Coleman both supported the measure.

Dayton spokeswoman Chris Lisi said he based his position "solely" on Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's Thursday floor statement. In that speech, Frist, who is a medical doctor and had reviewed video footage of Schiavo, said that she is responsive and that more time is needed to determine her fate.

Coleman said Schiavo had been given "what amounts to an unjust and undeserved court ordered death," referring to the Florida courts.

"There is nothing just, nothing natural, nothing compassionate about forbidding a family from feeding their disabled daughter," he said.

I'd like to see Dayton be a little more gutsy on his way out. But his statement does prove a point central to the separation of powers. Congress ought not substitute its judgment for that of a court. In the Schiavo matter, litigation has been going on for 11 years. The court appointed Jay Wolfson to act as Schiavo's guardian ad litem. Wolfson made extensive findings in his 40 page report. According to NPR, Wolfson spent hours with Schiavo looking for any evidence that she was not in a persistent vegetative state. Ultimately, he found none.

Wolfson tried to get the parties to agree to a swallow test to determine Schiavo's status. No agreement was reached, though Wolfson has refused to blame either side for the failure to reach an agreement.

Sen. Frist, then, after viewing a few minutes of video tape, concluded that Wolfson's painstaking work was simply wrong. Dayton took Frist's word for it. Congress proceeded to undo what the courts had done with no actual knowledge of the relevant facts.

Or did they? Although early news reports stated that the Senate vote was unanimous, the voice vote was taken with only 3 Senators present. Seems like upyernoz's got a point, then -- how is 3 a quorum? And do we really want any 3 U.S. Senators to be able to pass legislation?

Is this bill, then, the worst abuse of democracy on the Bush era? Yes. It's worse than bribing representatives on the House floor or holding votes open for hours in the middle of the night? Not only is it cynical politics, but it's a fundamental violation of democracy to allow 3 Senators to make law. Yet the so-called liberal media declares the vote "unanimous".


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