Removing commanders’ authority in military sexual-assault crimes would neither boost sexual-assault reporting nor strengthen a belief that the military justice system is fair, according to a subcommittee report released Thursday.
“A strong majority of subcommittee members agrees the evidence does not support a conclusion that removing authority to convene courts-martial from senior commanders will reduce the incidence of sexual assault or increase reporting of sexual assaults in the Armed Forces,” according to the Role of the Commander subcommittee report.
The subcommittee, which has nine members, was created as part of the Response Systems to Adult Sexual Assault Crimes Panel, established by the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.
That finding sets most of the members squarely against a proposal by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. The New York Democrat has been lobbying her colleagues for months, trying to garner the likely necessary 60 votes to pass legislation that would remove the chain of command’s power to decide whether sexual-assault cases are prosecuted.
It’s a move Pentagon officials and Sen. Claire McCaskill — who has a dueling proposal — have been pushing hard against. Sen. Harry Reid said Monday the Senate would debate sexual-assault legislation by mid-February, but he didn’t specify if the Senate would take up one or both of the proposals. He came out in support of Gillibrand’s bill last November, but other high-profile Democrats including Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin have spoken against it.
McCaskill, responding to the report, said the findings “must inform any future debate about alternative proposals.”
Only one of the subcommittee members, Elizabeth Hillman, a law professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, disagreed with the subcommittee’s report. Hillman, in a separate statement, said commanders “are neither essential nor well-suited for their current role in the legal process of criminal prosecution.”
But most of the subcommittee members believe there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that “removing such authority will increase confidence among victims of sexual assault about the fairness of the military justice system or reduce their concerns about possible reprisal for making reports of sexual assault,” according to the report.
Members of Congress have tweaked how the military deals with sexual-assault cases in the past few National Defense Authorization Acts, including requiring new or prospective commanders to undergo sexual-assault prevention and response training, removing a commander’s ability to overturn jury convictions, and requiring a civilian review if a commander decides against prosecuting. And the report suggests that more time is needed to see if such changes can create “meaningful improvements” before making a “systemic” change.
What We're Following See More »
"Even if House Republicans manage to get enough members of their party on board with the latest version of their health care bill, they will face another battle in the Senate: whether the bill complies with the chamber’s arcane ... Byrd rule, which stipulates all provisions in a reconciliation bill must affect federal spending and revenues in a way that is not merely incidental." Democrats should have the advantage in that fight, "unless the Senate pulls another 'nuclear option.'”
The House has passed a one-week spending bill that will avert a government shutdown which was set to begin at midnight. Lawmakers now have an extra week to come to a longer agreement which is expected to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass before President Trump signs it.
President Trump’s portrayal of an effort to funnel more Medicaid dollars to Puerto Rico as a "bailout" is complicating negotiations over a continuing resolution on the budget. "House Democrats are now requiring such assistance as a condition for supporting the continuing resolution," a position that the GOP leadership is amenable to. "But Mr. Trump’s apparent skepticism aligns him with conservative House Republicans inclined to view its request as a bailout, leaving the deal a narrow path to passage in Congress."
Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.