Kirsten Gillibrand gears up for another round
A dozen colleagues promised Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in March that if the Pentagon didn’t shape up, they would reconsider her proposal to take sexual assault cases out of the chain of command.
Ten months later, she’s coming to collect.
The New York Democrat told POLITICO that she’s been in talks with the Democratic and Republican senators who voted against her bill to change the way the military handles sexual assault cases but promised to keep an open mind about changing their stance. She is pushing them to read a recent Defense Department report that found that 62 percent of those who reported an assault faced retaliation — evidence, she says, that the current military justice process isn’t working. And she’s hoping President Barack Obama will weigh in on her side as she lobbies to get another vote in the new Congress under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, a Republican who has supported her bill.
Her efforts last year fell just five votes short of overcoming a filibuster, but she will continue to face significant opposition, including from Republicans and Democrats like Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill who have pushed other serious reforms at the Pentagon to curb assaults.
Still, Gillibrand and others who want a major overhaul of the World War II-era military justice system, in which commanders can decide which cases get pursued, see 2015 as a critical year.
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