01/25/2008 at 07:10 AM EST
With no work on Wisteria Lane these days (thanks to the Hollywood writers' strike), Desperate Housewives
's Marcia Cross
put her free time to use this week, lobbying Congress to pass 12-year-old legislation for breast cancer patients.
"And I thought making movies was slow," Cross said of the "ridiculous" inaction on a bill that would end so-called "drive-through" mastectomies and guarantee patients up to 48 hours of recovery time in the hospital. Cross, together with Lifetime television, delivered Congress with 20 million signatures from the online petition at mylifetime.com
– as her stockbroker husband, Tom Mahoney, proudly snapped photos.
"It's not like we're asking for a week in the hospital. It's 48 hours," Cross said. "These women have major surgery and are sent right home. Can you imagine? I mean, have you seen
a mastectomy scar?" The 45-year-old actress also vowed to take the fight home to Hollywood by asking Grey's Anatomy
writer Shonda Rhimes to make the "drive-through" mastectomy issue a plotline on her show. "I don't know Shonda, but I'm going to track her down and suggest it."
Cross and Mahoney, who made the quick trip to Washington without their 11-month-old twin girls
Eden and Savannah, were treated to a private tour of the West Wing of the White House.
The former Melrose Place
star told PEOPLE she's wanted to get involved in helping breast cancer patients ever since one of her best friends was diagnosed three years ago. "I am always working and it's hard to get time off. When the writers' strike happened, I had time," she said. "But to come to Washington is slightly terrifying."
Scary, yes. But also inspiring. Wowed by the speech of 17-year-old Kelleigh Cosentino – who, with classmates at a Washington high school, is also lobbying for the bill – Cross said she had visions of her own daughters growing up to be as poised and self-confident.
"I wouldn't actually want them to go into show business, but politics?" she pondered. "Maybe. Hmm. Senator Mahoney. President Mahoney. If they want to, I'll be there for them."