Senate Rejects Gillibrand's Military Sexual Assault Reforms

A bill taking military sexual assault cases outside of the chain of command was narrowly defeated in the Senate Thursday in favor of a rival bill.

Senate Rejects Gillibrand's Military Sexual Assault Reforms
Flickr / personaldemocracy

A bill to dramatically reform the way sexual assault cases are prosecuted in the military was narrowly defeated Thursday, but a competing bill with less dramatic reforms passed easily.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's reform bill couldn't overcome a Republican filibuster after a 55-45 vote blocked the measure, which would have taken sexual assault prosecutions out of the military chain of command. (Via Office of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): "What Sen. Gillibrand is doing is way off base. It will not get us to the promised land of having a more victim-friendly system to report sexual assaults." (Via C-SPAN)​

Gillibrand's bill would have put those cases into the hands of private prosecutors, a move firmly opposed by the Pentagon. And after the vote, Gillibrand accused her colleagues of not doing enough to protect victims of sexual assault.

"We know that the deck is stacked against victims of sexual assault in the military today. And today, sadly, we say the same in the halls of Congress." (Via NBC)

But shortly after Gillibrand's bill was shot down, a rival reform bill from Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill overwhelmingly passed the same hurdle. McCaskill's less controversial bill would strike down the so-called "good soldier" defense, which protected suspects from prosecution based on their military conduct.

While both McCaskill and Gillibrand have been strong proponents of reforming sexual assault cases in the military, the question of how to prosecute these cases has driven a wedge between the two. McCaskill spoke and voted against Gillibrand's measure in Thursday's session. (Via Politico)

But McCaskill and Gillibrand — as two fairly high-profile Democratic women of the Senate — snagged a lot of headlines for the fact they disagreed. (Via U.S. News & World Report, National Journal, Talking Points Memo)

But the Missouri senator recently told The New Republic"She and I agree on the vast majority of issues. There is one difference and that has gotten way too much outsized attention."

Both Gillibrand and McCaskill's bills originally began as amendments to last year's National Defense Authorization Act, which also included a number of historic sexual assault reforms.