Senate blocks military sex assault bill

A bill removing military sexual assault reporting from the chain of command failed in the Senate Thursday.
By Gabrielle Levy  |  March 6, 2014 at 4:34 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 6 (UPI) -- A bill to remove military commanders from the decisions over the prosecution of sexual assault cases failed in the Senate, falling as two camps of thinking failed to coalesce into a 60-vote majority.

The measure failed in a cloture vote Thursday, receiving 55 votes -- five shy of the 60 needed to advance to a floor vote. 11 Republicans voted for the Democrat-led measure, but 11 Democrats voted against.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., had led the charge on the controversial-but-bipartisan measure, in an effort to bring sweeping changes to a military that has seen increased numbers of sexual assaults, but low convictions and even lower reporting.

Gillibrand said requiring sexual assault victims to report their cases to their commanding officers was like forcing a woman to go to her father if her brother abused her. She says only one in 10 sexual assaults in the military are reported.

But opponents back a measure that would instead hold military leaders more responsible for prosecuting crimes -- pushed by Gillbrand's fellow Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri -- and insist the authority remain within the chain of command.

Disappointed, Gillibrand said she would bring the measure back, perhaps as attached to a military spending bill this fall.

"I always hoped we could do the right thing here -- and deliver a military justice system that is free from bias and conflict of interest -- a military justice system that is worthy of the brave men and women who fight for us," she said, following the vote. "But today the Senate turned its back on a majority of its members."

“This is both a sad day and an encouraging day," added Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who supported the measure. "It’s a sad day that we didn’t get the 60 votes that we should have had, but it’s an extraordinary day that 55 senators -- a substantial bipartisan majority today -- stood up and voted to provide serious reform to stop sexual assault in the military.”

[New York Times] [NBC News]

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