At a press conference at the King County Sheriff's office this afternoon, Washington State's two US Sens., Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, flanked by advocates for domestic violence victims, the new county sheriff, Steve Strachan, and King County Executive Dow Constantine, decried Republican efforts to kill the Violence Against Women Act---which, they noted repeatedly, passed the Senate in 1994 with unanimous, bipartisan support.

Republicans oppose reauthorizing the bill, which funds programs for domestic-violence victims, because it would expand protections to Native American tribes, rural areas, and some illegal immigrants; would increase the availability of free legal assistance to domestic violence victims; would create new protections against stalking; and would help train court personnel to help families with a history of violence. The new protections for illegal immigrants are aimed at protecting "child bribes" brought to the US for sex slavery.

Citing the grim statistics---43 percent of women killed in the US die at the hands of a partner; 24 US citizens are victims of domestic violence every minute---the two senators said it was time for Congress to set partisan politics aside for the good of battered women across the country. (Not likely, as we've seen in the past).

"This bill has been put forward in a bipartisan fashion," Murray said. "It should not be controversial. It passed unanimously last time in the Senate and President Bush signed it into law."

Cantwell echoed: "The Senate needs to take up the VAWA and pass it---no distractions, no sideshows, just action on behalf of women in the state of Washington."

Murray said she didn't know whether Washington's Republican House delegation---including two women, Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-3) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-5) and a former King County sheriff, Dave Reichert (R-8)---would oppose the legislation in the US House. "I'm afraid of the House not passing anything," she said. "We need 60 votes [in the Senate], and that can be a challenge," she added.

We have calls out to Herrera Beutler, McMorris Rodgers, and Reichert to see if they plan to vote for or against VAWA. We also have a call out to the sheriff's department to find out how much King County received in VAWA funds while Reichert was sheriff, between 1997 and 2005.