Family Matters

As the world watched the Terri Schiavo drama play out on the news stations and the editorial pages of our nation’s leading newspapers, they saw a parade of prominent people: her husband, her grieving parents, angry protestors, and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The Congressman who inspired the legislation that threw the Schiavo case into the federal court system, DeLay firmly supported the right to life. He claimed, “Terri Schiavo is alive. She is not ‘barely alive.’ She is not ‘being kept alive.’ She is as alive as you or I, and as such we have a moral obligation to protect and defend her from the fate premeditated by the Florida courts.” Soon after DeLay made these remarks, the world learned: When faced with the same choice as Schiavo’s husband about whether to pull the plug on life support, DeLay chose to let his father die with dignity in a Texas hospital in 1988, taking his father off of life support. This is completely contradictory to DeLay’s stated goal with the Terri Schaivo case and goes to show that House Republicans are using this case for purely political purposes, and it will backfire in their faces. The Republican legislation that put the Schaivo case back into the federal court raises three major issues: Seperation of powers, states’ rights to decide state issues and the passing of legislation for one individual. Speration of power and checks and balances set up the essential framework for the U.S. government. Like checks and balances, separation of power is designed to prevent one branch of government from becoming too powerful , giving each branch defined roles. The responsibility of the Congress is different than that of the court system. Congress is obliged to pass broad laws that apply across the country into every city and state. The role of the courts is to interpret these laws in the specific instances where they might or might not apply, but with passing this particular legislation, Congress has thrown that all out the window. In the law, Congress forces a federal court to hear a state issue that has been resolved in state courts for over 15 years. This brings us to the issue of states’ rights. Since the beginning of the Union, as with our checks on power, there have been two distinct types of cases to appear before our courts. State issues include election disputes, homicide, and custody issues- like the one seen in the Schaivo case. Federal issues include fraud, drug trafficking across state lines, and one state bringing a lawsuit against another. Republicans love to talk about how the Federal government is too powerful and how states’ rights are sacred and should be protected. Someone should point out to them, then, that this law flies in the face of American tradition and the Republican dogma. Finally, the decision to pass broad-reaching legislation for the sake of a single person sets a disturning precedent.. Again, this exposes the contradictory nature of this entire issue for the Republicans. Tom DeLay and the GOP love to talk about how the federal government reaches too far into the affairs of the citizens, and should be approproately limited. Then, these same people turn around and pass legislation directed at one person interfering with a private family dispute. Could this Republican Congress press into private family issues more then they have already? I doubt it. The Schaivo case will confirm the suspicions of countless Americans about the Republican Congress in power today: they have no qualms about passing legislation that not only flies in the face of American traditions of government, but manages to be completely contradictory to the GOP platform if they believe that passing such laws will help them politically. Democrats, if they want to win in 2006, should seize on this issue and show the American people the truth about what Tom DeLay and his Republican allies are doing up on Capitol Hill.