Special Reports

Brame case makes it to U.S. Senate

WASHINGTON - Citing the violent deaths of David and Crystal Brame in front of their children, Sen. Patty Murray fought Thursday to persuade her colleagues to extend a range of benefits to victims of domestic violence.

The amendment failed amid claims that Murray (D-Shoreline) was "playing politics" in an effort to kill the controversial Unborn Victims of Violence Act.

Among other things, Murray's bill would have extended assistance to children who witness acts of domestic violence.

Last April, Tacoma Police Chief David Brame fatally shot his wife, Crystal, and himself as their children, Haley, 7, and David, 5, watched.

Murray said Haley told one witness, "My daddy is a policeman and he is very mean to my mommy. I think my daddy has killed her."

Haley also told police she had seen her dad point a gun at her mother's head in the past, Murray said.

Murray said the children talked about past anger between their parents.

"This is just one terrible example of the trauma that children who live with domestic violence have to live with," Murray said. "It should be our collective goal to help them overcome it."

Murray's amendment would have provided grants for counseling and other mental health services to such children and would help child welfare agencies and others protect children who are caught up in domestic violence.

It also would also have required employers to provide unpaid leave and states to extend unemployment benefits to women when they or their families are victims of domestic violence.

But the amendment, which was opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and anti-abortion groups, was defeated on a point of order for violating budget rules. Murray got only 46 of the 60 votes needed to overcome the parliamentary move.

A handful of Republican senators spoke against the Murray amendment, saying it was designed to kill the bill itself because the House would never go along with it.

"This is not the time or the place for this amendment," said Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio).

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said the Unborn Victims of Violence Act was too important to jeopardize with a "158-page amendment we haven't had hearings on."

Murray's likely opponent in the November election, U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt, a Spokane Republican, accused the senator of "playing politics" with domestic violence and was simply trying to add a fatal amendment to the bill.

"Senator Murray is the last obstacle to protecting unborn victims of violence," Nethercutt told reporters before Thursday's vote.

"Murray is offering her amendment under the auspices of protecting domestic violence victims. In reality, Murray's amendment will leave the ultimate victims of domestic violence without federal protections."

Reed Davis, a former party leader who also is seeking the Republican nomination, could not be reached Thursday.

Murray and others said her amendment was relevant because preventing domestic violence could help reduce the number of women and unborn children who are killed.

Murray quoted from a letter the Chamber of Commerce had sent to senators, which said her amendment was "completely unrelated" to the bill and would impose significant costs on businesses, particularly small businesses.

"In other words, preventing domestic violence and giving women the tools they need to escape from abusive relationships is bad for the bottom line," Murray said.

Les Blumenthal: 1-202-383-0008