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Partisan gridlock has long been a staple here in Washington, but one issue is uniting lawmakers on both sides of the aisle - Britney Spears' legal battle against her conservatorship. NPR's Barbara Sprunt has the story.
BARBARA SPRUNT, BYLINE: It's not often that conservative Senator Ted Cruz and progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren agree.
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TED CRUZ: I am squarely and unequivocally in the camp of Free Britney. I think this is friggin' (ph) ridiculous what is happening to Britney Spears, and it needs to end.
SPRUNT: That's the Texas Republican speaking on his recent podcast. A handful of House Republicans have requested a hearing on conservatorship abuse pegged to the Spears case and have invited Spears to testify. The pop star wants to end a 13-year legal arrangement that's enabled her father to exert control over her personal decisions and her estimated $60 million fortune. Prianka Nair, the co-director of the Disability and Civil Rights Clinic at Brooklyn Law School, says the conservatorship, also known as a guardianship, is a mechanism set up for people the court deems unable to manage their own affairs.
PRIANKA NAIR: Many people describe being under guardianship like a civil death. You cease to exist, really, as a legal person, and somebody else is able to make decisions for you.
SPRUNT: Senator Warren teamed up with Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Bob Casey to ask the Justice and Health and Human Services departments for data on guardianship arrangements. Here's Casey.
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BOB CASEY: I don't think we'll have a full sense of the actions the federal government should take until we have the data. Like any area of public policy, your decision in most instances will only be as good as your data.
SPRUNT: Despite the common ground on Capitol Hill for Spears, it's unclear what Congress can do because these legal arrangements are mostly controlled by the states, not the federal government. But Nair says collecting data is a good place to start.
NAIR: The data tracking is poor, and it's piecemeal, and it differs from state to state.
SPRUNT: She says Congress could offer states incentives and technical assistance to develop a centralized data collection system on conservatorships.
NAIR: Britney Spears is the tip of the iceberg.
SPRUNT: Nair says she sees people in Spears' position a lot but without her stardom and platform. And without better tracking, it's hard to know just how many people the system affects and how often the conservatorships themselves are removed.
NAIR: We're really missing out on understanding why guardianships are entered into, what purpose they serve, what gap they're filling. And those are really important questions when we think about reform.
SPRUNT: Britney Spears' legal battle continues, and there's no sign that she'll testify before Congress. But these lawmakers hope to capitalize on the public attention the issue's received to move the needle for others in her shoes but without her microphone.
Barbara Sprunt, NPR News, Washington.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STRONGER")
BRITNEY SPEARS: (Singing) ...On my own. But now I'm stronger than yesterday. Now it's nothing but my way. My loneliness ain't killing me...
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