After heated debate on the floor, the Senate voted to block Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's Military Justice Improvement Act, which would take major crimes like sexual assault outside the military chain of command for judicial review. Gillibrand needed 60 votes for cloture to get a final vote on the matter, but she only came up with 55. Prior to the vote, she had 55 confirmed supporters, but assured reporters she had more private support lined up. The Senate passed Sen. Claire McCaskill's military sexual assault bill, which keeps the chain of command in place, but provides extra protections for victims.
This is unfortunate for Gillibrand but not altogether surprising — she's worked for months to get a vote on the bill. McCaskill and the Armed Services Committee have fought her on taking sexual assault cases outside the chain of command, insisting that you can't remove commanders' responsibility in these cases. Prior to the vote, Sen. John McCain asked on the floor, "Will we hold those commanders responsible for everything that happens under their command, or will we take that responsibility and shift it to a lawyer? That's what this is really all about." He continued, "I trust these commanders. I trust them."
Later, Gillibrand countered,
It's not whether anyone in this chamber trusts the chain of command, the people who do not trust the chain of command are the victims. ... The reason why the female victim does not come forward is because she does not trust the chain of command.
McCaskill finished the debate by expressing her "deep respect for the senator of New York. ... This disagreement on policy has overshadowed the amazing work that so many have done this year to enact a different day in the military when it comes to sexual assault."
Meanwhile, the top Army prosecutor for sexual assault cases was just suspended after a female lawyer who worked for him accused him of sexually assaulting her at legal conference about sexual assault. According to Stars and Stripes and the Army Times, Lt. Col. Joseph “Jay” Morse, who supervised the Army's special victims prosecutors, has been accused of groping and trying to kiss the lawyer who worked for him at a special victims prosecutors conference two years ago. He has not been charged with any crime.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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