Gillibrand, McCaskill Duel for Votes on Sex Assault Bill

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.
National Journal
Stacy Kaper
Add to Briefcase
Stacy Kaper
Nov. 19, 2013, 2:48 p.m.

Though sen­at­ors have had months to think through their po­s­i­tion on meas­ures to curb mil­it­ary sexu­al as­saults, more than 20 have shied away from tak­ing pub­lic po­s­i­tions — in­clud­ing ma­jor fig­ures such as Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell, R-Ky., and Ma­jor­ity Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

Some Sen­ate aides say privately they be­lieve that many just do not want to ad­mit they are plan­ning to op­pose the le­gis­la­tion head­ing to the floor, and they want to avoid tak­ing a stand on an is­sue the Pentagon is heav­ily lob­by­ing.

Still, many of those sen­at­ors who say they are on the fence ap­pear to be hung up over lo­gist­ic­al ques­tions sur­round­ing how the amend­ment sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gil­librand, D-N.Y. — which would re­move as­sault cases from the chain of com­mand — would work.

With the ad­di­tion­al sup­port of Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, D-Nev., and Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Cory Book­er, D-N.J., an­nounced this week, the bill has 50 sen­at­ors pub­licly be­hind it but is still shy of the 60 needed, as the vote ap­proaches.

“I per­son­ally will make sure I call or speak to every single un­de­cided sen­at­or today,” Gil­librand said Tues­day. She has en­lis­ted former mil­it­ary lead­ers and sur­viv­ors of mil­it­ary sexu­al as­sault to make per­son­al ap­peals to se­lect col­leagues, and she as­serts that 20 to 25 sen­at­ors are un­de­cided.

Yet even as these fence-sit­ters mull their op­tions, those choices are in­creas­ing, as an amend­ment by Sen. Claire Mc­Caskill, D-Mo., has emerged as a primary al­tern­at­ive to Gil­librand’s le­gis­la­tion. It would add ad­di­tion­al mod­est re­forms that en­joy broad bi­par­tis­an sup­port and are ex­pec­ted to be eas­ily ad­op­ted.

And Mc­Caskill her­self has emerged as the lead op­pon­ent to Gil­librand’s ef­fort.

Mc­Caskill says that per­haps only five or six sen­at­ors are un­de­cided, and she in­sists that her ef­forts lob­by­ing col­leagues against Gil­librand’s amend­ment are about en­sur­ing the best policy to ad­dress sexu­al as­saults.

“Policy mat­ters,” she said. “This is just about the policy: what is best for vic­tims, what will put more per­pet­rat­ors in pris­on.”

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., has not de­clared a po­s­i­tion pub­licly. “I’ve just been care­ful about this,” he said. “I want to com­pare Gil­librand’s pro­pos­al to the steps that the mil­it­ary is tak­ing on their own and what’s in the un­der­ly­ing bill.”

Murphy ad­ded, “The un­der­ly­ing is­sue for me is what will cut down on re­tali­ation; the fear of re­tali­ation is what prompts a lot of these crimes to go un­re­por­ted, and I thought from the very be­gin­ning it is not a clear-cut case that an out­side re­port­ing sys­tem will ne­ces­sar­ily cut down on re­tali­ation. It likely will in­crease pro­sec­u­tions, but I’m still tak­ing a look at the is­sue of re­tali­ation.”

Murphy said he has talked to Mc­Caskill, Gil­librand, Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Carl Lev­in, D-Mich., and the De­fense De­part­ment.

He said some of the Pentagon’s ar­gu­ments leave him un­per­suaded.

“Their ar­gu­ment is that the chain of com­mand will be dam­aged. I’m also not con­vinced of that ar­gu­ment. I’m not sure why a com­mand­ing of­ficer would care any less about root­ing out sexu­al as­sault simply be­cause he doesn’t have pro­sec­utori­al power any longer”¦. I don’t really think the sky will fall if you set up a pro­cess out­side the chain of com­mand to fer­ret out the worst crimes.”

Greg Jac­ob, the policy dir­ect­or with the Ser­vice Wo­men’s Ac­tion Net­work, said his group is field­ing sev­er­al tech­nic­al ques­tions.

“All the of­fices we are talk­ing to, they are not just un­de­cided just to be un­de­cided,” he said. “They really have ques­tions. They are really drilling down and ask­ing for de­tailed ex­plan­a­tions on this stuff — wheth­er it’s the bill, wheth­er it’s mil­it­ary law, they want to make the right de­cision. For them, it is a big deal.”

Gil­librand has mod­i­fied her amend­ment so it would ap­ply to any ma­jor crime that is pun­ish­able by a year or more in pris­on, but it would ex­empt 37 spe­cif­ic mil­it­ary crimes.

What We're Following See More »
LOFTY GOALS
White House Proposes New Tax Plan
16 hours ago
BREAKING

The White House on Wednesday laid out its plan for tax reform, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying it would be "the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country." The tax code would be broken down into just three tax brackets, with the highest personal income tax rate cut from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. The plan would also slash the tax rate on corporations and small businesses from 35 percent to 15 percent. "The White House plan is a set of principles with few details, but it’s designed to be the starting point of a major push to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive tax reform package this year," said National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn.

Source:
EMERGING BUDGET FRAMEWORK?
Dems Proposes Obamacare-for-Defense Deal
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"An emerging government funding deal would see Democrats agree to $15 billion in additional military funding in exchange for the GOP agreeing to fund healthcare subsidies, according to two congressional officials briefed on the talks. Facing a Friday deadline to pass a spending bill and avert a shutdown, Democrats are willing to go halfway to President Trump’s initial request of $30 billion in supplemental military funding."

Source:
WHITE HOUSE BLOCKING DOC REQUEST
Michael Flynn Remains A Russian-Sized Problem
1 days ago
BREAKING

The Michael Flynn story is not going away for the White House as it tries to refocus its attention. The White House has denied requests from the House Oversight Committee for information and documents regarding payments that the former national security adviser received from Russian state television station RT and Russian firms. House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz and ranking member Elijah Cummings also said that Flynn failed to report these payments on his security clearance application. White House legislative director Marc Short argued that the documents requested are either not in the possession of the White House or contain sensitive information he believes is not applicable to the committee's stated investigation.

Source:
SENATE JUDICIARY HEARING
Sally Yates to Testify on May 8
1 days ago
THE LATEST
MESSAGE TO PUTIN
U.S. To Conduct Exercises In Estonia
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

The U.S. deployed "F-35 joint strike fighters" to Estonia on Tuesday. The "jets will stay in Estonia for several weeks and will be a part of training flights with U.S. and other NATO air forces." The move comes at a time of high tension between the U.S. and Estonia's neighbor, Russia. The two nations have been at odds over a number of issues recently, most of all being Vladimir Putin's support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in light of Assad's chemical weapons attack on his own people in the midst of a civil war.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login