Senate Will Not Launch Investigation on Terri Schiavo Memo

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 19, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Will Not Launch Investigation on Terri Schiavo Memo Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 19
, 2005

Washington, DC ( — The Senate Rules Committee will not launch an investigation into an anonymous memo distributed during the height of the Congressional debate on legislation to prevent Terri Schiavo’s starvation death. Senate Republicans were criticized because the memo described her plight as a "great political issue."

Rules Committee Chairman Sen. Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, told The Hill newspaper that he wrote a letter to New Jersey Democrat Sen. Frank Lautenberg saying there would be no investigation.

Lautenberg requested one after he received a copy of the memo and he wants the Senate to change its rules on allowing Senate staff to distribute materials anonymously.

“There’s no basis for any investigation by the Rules Committee," Lott wrote.

Earlier this month, Florida Senator Mel Martinez, a pro-life Republican who sponsored the legislation to help Terri in the Senate, said a staff member wrote the anonymous memo.

Martinez said he discovered that a legal counsel on his Senate staff prepared the memo. The staff member resigned from his position as a result.

Martinez explained that he had received it and put it in his coat pocket without looking at it. Asked for some talking points on the bill, Martinez gave Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, the memo thinking it to be generic information on his legislation.

"Unbeknownst to me … I had given him a copy of the now infamous memo," Martinez’s statement said.

Because of the information coming to light about the origins and distribution of the memo, Lott told Lautenberg that an investigation was unnecessary, according to The Hill report.

Late last week, Lautenberg seemed to be backing away from his request for a probe into the memo and pointed to comments from House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, who apologized for heated remarks about judges who rules in favor of Terri’s starvation.

“We want to be certain what we’re seeing is a somewhat calming of the waters," Lautenberg said, “and I want to assist in that process."

However, the news report in The Hill indicates Lautenberg may still press for the Senate Ethics Committee to look into the matter.

“That’s really the committee of jurisdiction," he said, but added he was "hanging out for a few days" to evaluate the situation.