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McMorris has reservations about legislation in Schiavo case

 (The Spokesman-Review)
McMorris (The Spokesman-Review)

Passing a law that required the federal courts to review the Terri Schiavo case was “not the best way to legislate,” Rep. Cathy McMorris said Thursday.

“I always hesitate when you start writing legislation for a specific case,” the freshman Republican congresswoman from Eastern Washington said.

But McMorris supports the bill and said she would have voted for it, if a delay on her flight back to Washington hadn’t made her miss the vote on Sunday morning.

“I was going to vote yes because I felt it was appropriate to allow the federal court to review the case one more time,” she said during an interview with The Spokesman-Review editorial board, which covered topics ranging from defense to Social Security to the case of Schiavo, a Florida woman in a persistent vegetative state who had her feeding tube disconnected last week.

McMorris said she did not think Republican congressional leaders were using the dispute between Schiavo’s husband and her parents for political gain. She doesn’t know enough about the case to understand why a series of judges has ruled against the parents, who have wanted the artificial feeding to continue, but she supported one more review because there was no written directive from Schiavo on the type of care she wanted.

If that directive existed, McMorris said she would not have supported Congress intervening in the case.

“If someone has made their wishes clear, I’m willing to respect their wishes,” she said, adding that there’s nothing else she thinks Congress should do in the case.

McMorris said she was still studying different ideas to revise Social Security, and is not yet prepared to support President Bush or anyone else’s plan to change the massive federal retirement system. A week ago, she was among 15 members of Congress who Bush invited to the White House and lobbied for support of private savings accounts.

While she’s not sure of everything she will support, McMorris said there are some things she knows she won’t support. She’s against raising the retirement age, raising payroll taxes for Social Security, and raising the cap on taxable income above $90,000 per year.

“I’m not very optimistic we will see a proposal, let alone have a proposal voted on by Congress, this year,” she said.

On military issues, McMorris said the Pentagon should complete its study of possible alternatives for a new Air Force tanker by sometime this summer. The study, ordered by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after evidence of collusion between a top Air Force official and Boeing on a deal for 100 new tankers, has been delayed several times.

“The Air Force would really like to get the scandal behind them,” she said. Tankers are flying nearly twice as many hours in recent years because of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But it’s no longer clear, she said, that Boeing has a lock on winning a contract if the Air Force decides to buy or lease new tankers to replace part of its fleet of KC-135s, the type of plane based at Fairchild Air Force Base. Airbus, a European manufacturer, is aggressively seeking American locations to build a plane so it could bid on the new tanker. Meanwhile, Boeing officials have told her they will decide by June whether to shut down the production line for the 767, which they had planned to use to build their new tanker.

Even without a decision on a new tanker, McMorris said she believes Fairchild is well-positioned to survive the next round of base closures, which is just getting under way.

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