Gillibrand’s Military Sexual-Assault Bill Fails in Senate

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 19: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) speaks at a news conference supporting passage of the Military Justice Improvement Act November 19, 2013 in Washington, DC. The legislation would help address increasing numbers of sexual assaults in the U.S. military by establishing an independent military justice system. Also pictured are (L-R) Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-NY), former U.S. Marine Sarah Plummer, Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) and U.S. Army veteran Kate Weber.
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Stacy Kaper
March 6, 2014, 9:30 a.m.

The Sen­ate on Thursday voted down a cru­cial mo­tion to pro­ceed on Sen. Kirsten Gil­librand’s bill to com­bat sexu­al as­sault in the mil­it­ary, clos­ing the door on the long-fought le­gis­la­tion for now.

The vote wraps up sev­er­al months of fits and starts on the con­tro­ver­sial le­gis­la­tion. Gil­librand’s bill would strip com­mand­ers of the power to de­cide which sexu­al-as­sault cases are pro­sec­uted and is vehe­mently op­posed by the Pentagon’s top brass.

Gil­librand, who ar­gued pas­sion­ately on the floor Thursday, has vowed to keep fight­ing for her le­gis­la­tion, which is cham­pioned by vic­tim-ad­vocacy or­gan­iz­a­tions.

The Sen­ate was ex­pec­ted to eas­ily pass a com­pet­ing, non­con­tro­ver­sial meas­ure from Sen. Claire Mc­Caskill that would build on oth­er re­forms re­cently ad­op­ted in last year’s de­fense au­thor­iz­a­tion act.

Gil­librand’s bill at­trac­ted 55 sup­port­ers but failed to over­come a pro­ced­ur­al hurdle re­quir­ing 60 votes, with the Sen­ate vot­ing 55 to 45. Had the Sen­ate ap­proved the clo­ture vote, it would have cleared a path for a vote on fi­nal pas­sage, which would have re­quired only a simple ma­jor­ity.

Gil­librand lost the votes of Demo­crats Sens. Tom Carp­er of Delaware and Re­pub­lic­an Mark Kirk of Illinois,  who had been de­clared sup­port­ers, but she picked up the sup­port of Re­pub­lic­an Sens. Mike En­zi of Wyom­ing and Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell, who were un­de­cided.


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