Gillibrand urges Schumer to vote on military sexual assault bill
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand implores Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to bring to the floor a bill it would transform the way sexual assault and other major crimes are handled in the military.
Gillibrand worked across the aisle to garner support for the bill, which currently has 64 cosponsors, including Republican Senators Joni Ernst, Chuck Grassley and Ted Cruz. That’s enough support to get around the filibuster threshold of 60 votes in the Senate, but first the bill has to get to the prosecution – a decision that is up to Schumer.
“I think we should have a vote now,” Gillibrand said during an appearance on CNN. State of the Union on Sunday. “This is a generational bill that changes the way we approach military justice, how we build a military justice system that deserves the sacrifice our men and women make in the military.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is pushing for a vote on a bipartisan bill to move serious military crimes out of the chain of command and allow a qualified military prosecutor to make decisions. “The chain of command is prejudiced because they can know the perpetrator.” #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/hE5k8OKe7Q
– State of the Union (@CNNSotu) May 30, 2021
Currently, when someone reports a sexual assault or major crime in the military, the decision to prosecute is made by military commanders within the chain of command. Gillibrand’s bill would shift the decision to prosecute commanders to independent, trained and professional military prosecutors.
The Senator has been working on this issue since 2013 when she introduced the Enhanced Military Justice Act. Since then, the number of sexual assaults reported in the military has increased. One in 16 women in the military said they were groped, raped or otherwise sexually assaulted in 2018, which is the most recent data available to the government on the issue.
“Over the past 10 years, the number of sexual assaults has increased, but the percentage of cases pending and resulting in conviction has declined,” Gillibrand told host Jake Tapper. “Under President Trump, the statistics and the details got even worse. And so we are not going in the right direction.
And, Gillibrand points out, many allies of the United States, such as the United Kingdom, have already implemented similar processes within their armed forces.
But fellow Democratic Senator Jack Reed, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, blocked the bill, instead insisting on his own, narrower proposal. Reed said he wanted to add a provision to the Defense Department’s budget that would only change the criminal process regarding sexual assault, but not other major crimes.
“[Reed’s] insisting on limiting this bill to one crime, the crime of sexual assault, you are essentially going to break the criminal justice system within the military, ”said Gillibrand. “You are going to create a set of justice for a set of plaintiffs and accused and the rest for all the others. It is not fair.”
Gillibrand also told Tapper that she believed Reed’s idea would not eliminate prejudice against black and brown soldiers and said she would essentially create a “pink court” separate from the rest of the military criminal justice system. .
“To remove the biases from the system at all levels, you need a qualified military prosecutor to make these decisions about whether to go to court,” she said. “It takes him out of the chain of command. The chain of command is prejudiced because they can know the perpetrator, the accused. They may know the survivor.
The House considered a similar bill, the I am Vanessa Guillén Act, which is sponsored by Representative Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee. The Spiers bill would also create a stand-alone sexual harassment offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.