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Published On: Sat, Mar 8th, 2014

Sen. Gillibrand’s ‘Military Justice Improvement Act’ falls short in the Senate

The legislation sponsored by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, S. 1752, or the Military Justice Improvement Act was introduced to combat sexual assault and other violent crimes in the military by restructuring the way in which they are reported and prosecuted, fell short Thursday in the US Senate by a vote of 55-45.

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) Image/US Congress

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)
Image/US Congress

The bill required 60 votes to move forward.

Gillibrand made a statement after the vote, here are some excerpts:

“From the very beginning – this was never about being a Democratic idea or a Republican idea. It was just the right thing to do – that people of good faith from both parties could unite around.

“Tragically, today the Senate failed them. Despite earning the support of the majority of the Senate, we fell five votes short of overcoming the 60-vote filibuster threshold. But we will not walk away, we will continue to work harder than ever in the coming year to strengthen our military.

Without a doubt, with the National Defense bill we passed, and Senator McCaskill’s Victims Protection Act, we have taken good steps to stand up for victims, and hold offenders accountable.

“But we have not taken a step far enough. We know the deck is stacked against victims of sexual assault in the military, and today, we saw the same in the halls of Congress.

“For two full decades, since Dick Cheney served as the Defense Secretary during the Tailhook scandal that shook the military and shocked the nation, we’ve heard the same thing: “zero tolerance” to sexual assault in the military.

“But the truth is in the results, and that’s “zero accountability.

“As painful as today’s vote is, our struggle on behalf of the brave men and women who serve in our military will go on. We owe so much to those who bravely serve our country, and I will never quit on them.

“For the men and women who sign up to serve our country for all the right reasons – only to be twice betrayed by their chain of command – if they can find the courage to make their voices heard to strengthen the military they hold so dear– we have to keep up this fight.

“We will continue to the fight for justice and accountability. That is our duty.”

Conservative Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky (see video below) backed her effort; however, it faced opposition from powerful fellow Democrats, including Sen. Claire McCaskill and Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, as well as the president himself.

Speaking on the floor against Gillibrand’s measure, Sen. McCaskill said, “We cannot let the commanders walk away.” She was joined by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who spoke to the matter of sexual assault in the military with a view likely not shared by the scores of those victimized. “The worst thing that could happen in a unit is for the commander to say that this is no longer my problem,” he said.

Co-founder and co-Executive Director of the Women’s Rights organization, UltraViolet,  Shaunna Thomas had some strong words concerning the vote Thursday:

“Today, 45 US Senators blocked all justice for survivors of sexual assault in the military, and that is a travesty. Today’s results show just how pervasive rape culture in America has become, and how hard we will have to fight to overcome it. 1 in 5 women will experience an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime, and more than 26,000 people experienced sexual violence in the military in 2012 alone. We won’t stop fighting, and the 45 Senators who voted in support of rape culture today should be ashamed for not fighting with us.”

The Pentagon estimated in a report for the 2012 fiscal year that there were 26,000 incidents of sexual assault within the military, with fewer than 3,400 of them reported.

Having failed to proceed to a general vote, the Military Justice Improvement Act has been returned to the full Senate calendar.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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