The New Yorker said she’s got a firm 53 public supporters so far, with “many more” pledging privately that they’ll take her side when her bill hits the floor. Gillibrand insisted that she’s also gotten a boost from senators disgusted by a recent story in The Washington Post, detailing the poor behavior of some of the same military commanders who have a critical say in sexual assault prosecutions.Please read below the fold for more on the Military Justice Improvement Act.
“I think we’ll get to 60,” Gillibrand said. “I think we’ll overcome a filibuster. And we may get to 60 for the underlying vote as well.”
McCaskill countered by noting she’s working to siphon away Gillibrand backers by arguing the Pentagon is already at work implementing a series of new policy changes on sexual assault that were required in the latest defense authorization bill that President Barack Obama signed less than two months ago.
Those changes, though valuable and long overdue, don't fundamentally shift how the military prevents and prosecutes sexual assault—or fails to do so, as has been the case for years. Gillibrand's Military Justice Improvement Act, by contrast, would take decisions about sexual assault prosecutions out of the hands of military commanders, with trained prosecutors making those decisions instead. Many U.S. allies have similar laws, yet the American military fiercely opposes it, demanding instead to be allowed to continue to fail on its own terms.
The chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff admitted last spring that, because of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, "I took my eye off the ball in the command that I have" when it came to sexual assault. Ariana Klay, a veteran who was sexually assaulted during her time in the Marines, said that her commander's "incentives were as much to deny the problem as they were to retaliate against those who might choose to report"; her husband, also a Marine veteran, said that:
It is organized to be that way. Military justice is a secondary duty for a commander. Something he didn't sign up for and a distraction from his mission to fight wars. Imagine a business executive who runs a company and has to oversee the prosecution of felons who perform valuable work for him. He'd be as interested in prosecuting as commanders are, and his workers would be confident about what they could get away with.Yet the military is still saying "trust us, we'll handle it," and Claire McCaskill is, like Lindsey Graham, lobbying hard to let them.