DeLay insists judges must 'answer for their behavior'By RACHEL GRAVES, Houston Chronicle
April 1, 2005
Separating himself from Washington with his location and rhetoric, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on Thursday threatened the federal judges who refused to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case.
"We will look at an unaccountable, arrogant, out-of-control judiciary that thumbed their nose at Congress and the president," DeLay said in suburban Houston.
"It's a sad day for America," he added. "The legal system failed Terri Schiavo. We all failed Terri Schiavo."
His leadership colleagues opted for a tone of sympathy in their remarks about the Schiavo case. Some discussed passing federal legislation regarding life support cases.
President Bush said the nation should honor Schiavo by developing a culture more sensitive to the preservation of life, and Senate Majority Leader and physician Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said her death was a "regrettable loss of life."
DeLay, who spurred Congress' involvement in the Schiavo controversy, remained rooted Thursday in what he said was moral conviction. He said the federal government had been obliged to intervene as a potential lifesaver.
Opinion polls show that a majority of Americans disagreed with the involvement of Bush and Congress in what had been a family, medical and state court issue.
"This is not about polls," DeLay, R-Sugar Land, said Thursday. "It's about life and death."
DeLay spent much of this week at civic events in his 22nd Congressional District and said on the day before Schiavo's death that his constituents expressed support for Congress' involvement in the case.
Congress held a rare weekend session after Florida state courts said that Michael Schiavo could order the withdrawal of his wife's feeding tube after she spent 15 years in what her doctors called a "persistent vegetative state."
Lawmakers passed legislation allowing Schiavo's parents to take their protracted legal battle against Schiavo's husband to federal court, where they were also rebuffed. The U.S. Supreme Court also rejected the parents' appeal multiple times.
DeLay, speaking to reporters at a Houston hotel, declined to specify what action he wants to take.
"This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change," DeLay said. "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior."
DeLay added that Congress has "shirked its responsibility to hold the judiciary accountable" for too long.
In 1997, DeLay publicly contemplated an impeachment drive against some judges on grounds that their decisions often ignored existing laws. Federal judges are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate for lifetime appointments. They can be impeached by Congress.
Thursday, U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., called DeLay's comments about the judges "irresponsible and reprehensible" in the aftermath of the recent murder of a Georgia judge and the killing of a federal judge's husband and mother in Chicago.
"Mr. DeLay needs to make clear that he is not advocating violence against anyone," Kennedy said. "People in this case have already had their lives threatened."
Also, DeLay bristled Thursday at comparisons between his father and Schiavo. DeLay's family opted to remove his father, Charles Ray DeLay, from life support in 1988 after a freak accident left him in a coma.
"My father was dying," he said. "He was kept alive on life support for nearly 30 days. His organs were shutting down. ... Terri Schiavo was not dying. She was being fed."
DeLay added that his family was unanimous in its decision, unlike Schiavo's family.
He said Schiavo's husband had conflicts of interest because of his relationship with another woman. DeLay raised what he called allegations that Florida Judge George Greer, Michael Schiavo and the hospice where Schiavo spent her last days were connected.
Conservative Web sites are circulating claims that Greer had a conflict of interest because he served as a county commissioner with a member of the hospice board and one of his fellow judges is related to a different member of the board.