Top Senate Democrat Blocks Vote on Bipartisan Military Sexual Assault Bill

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed is blocking a vote on a bill to reform how the military justice system handles sexual assault, The American Prospect reports.

The bill, which is authored by New York Democrat Kirsten Gilibrand and has 66 co-sponsors in the Senate, is facing pushback from both Reed and the committee’s top Republican, James Lankford.

Reed is blocking quick passage of the bill, which falls under the committee’s jurisdiction, and wants it to go through hearings before the committee before it is attached to a defense funding bill, which would delay the passage by months.

Reed’s opposition comes despite bipartisan support and a filibuster-proof majority.

Though the bill has been championed by Gillibrand, it has gained Republican supporters like Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, and Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst.

Reed wants changes:

Reed also wants to make changes to the bill.

Reed wants to narrow the scope of a measure that would give independent prosecutors jurisdiction over non-military felonies, which Reed wants narrowed to only include sexual assault.

Under such a provision, the military would still handle the high-profile prosecution of Vanessa Guillen’s murder. Guillen was killed in April of last year at Fort Hood.

“No one benefits from keeping Vanessa Guillén’s murder in the chain of command,” a Gillibrand aide told the American Prospect. “I can’t think of a more egregious example of a reform falling short if it doesn’t help the woman who ignited the national firestorm.”

Sexual harassment and assault rise:

The number of sexual assaults reported by the Defense Department has tripled since 2012, when Gillibrand began pushing for the bill. At the same time, conviction rates have continued to decline.

Gillibrand criticized the delay caused by Reed’s resistance.

“Our preference would be a stand-alone vote on the floor because that way it can’t get killed in conference, which seems apparent is their plan,” a Gillibrand aide told the outlet. “It won’t come out of conference until late in December, and then it’s bumping up against the holidays.”


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