Why Rand Paul and Ted Cruz Really Want Their Names on the Military Sexual Assault Bill

They make an odd senatorial trio, there’s no doubt: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the Tea Party favorite; Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), the neo-libertarian firebrand; and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), the liberal champion of justice for sexual assault victims. But at a press conference (video here) on Capitol Hill Tuesday, the three stood together in support of Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA), which would remove the reporting and prosecution of sex crimes from the chain of command, a measure staunchly opposed by leaders of the armed forces.

In joining with Gillibrand to support the MJIA, Cruz and Paul, both regarded as contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, likely hope to convey some compassion for women, especially since both men hold stringent anti-choice positions—as in no exceptions for rape, incest, or health of the woman.

Cruz would allow a narrow exception for a threat to the life of the woman, while the position held by Paul, who authored the unsuccessful “Life at Conception Act,” has become a bit murky since his March interview with CNN, in which he used vague language about how “every individual case is going to be different.”

Their alliance with the New York Democrat also shores up both men’s reputations as mavericks who are unafraid of bucking the Republican establishment as they set out to charm the right-wing base that will turn out for GOP presidential primary races, while simultaneously helping Gillibrand buck her own party’s leaders.

The addition of Cruz and Paul to the MJIA’s list of co-sponsors brings the number to 34; Gillibrand needs to line up at least 51 in order to see the measure go to the Senate floor for debate.

Last month, during the mark-up of the annual defense appropriation, Gillibrand suffered a serious defeat when Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, refused to include Gillibrand’s measure in the final bill, even as he allowed other measures targeting the military’s sexual abuse crisis, including a ban on commanding officers overturning sexual assault convictions, and would make retaliation against victims a crime. Neither Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid nor President Barack Obama have expressed support for the MJIA, despite the lip service they’ve paid to ending the scourge of sexual assault in the military.

Refusing to let her measure die, Gillibrand continued to seek support, her staff keeping tally of each new vote promised on a whiteboard in her Senate offices, according to Politico’s Anna Palmer and Darren Samuelson. The votes promised by Cruz and Paul are big gets for Gillibrand, making her bill all the more bipartisan (Sens. Susan Collins [R-ME], Chuck Grassley [R-IA], and Mike Johanns [R-NE] were already on board), and setting up a showdown for the Empire State’s junior senator with Levin, the long-serving committee chair, as well as with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who, like Gillibrand, is one of the Senate’s rising stars.

Gillibrand’s measure became a matter of intense debate in June, when the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other top military brass were hauled before the Armed Services Committee to address the military’s sexual assault crisis after the Pentagon issued a report that estimated some 26,000 incidents of “unwanted sexual contact” experienced by military personnel in the 2012 fiscal year, despite having received reports of only 3,374 sexual assaults.

Inconveniently for military leaders, a rash of news reports of sexual assaults and misconduct by military men surrounded the report’s release, including the May 7 arrest of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, then the top official in the Air Force’s sexual abuse prevention unit, who was charged with having groped a civilian in the parking lot of a Virginia shopping mall.

Advocates for survivors of sexual assault in the military have long contended that the armed forces’ chain-of-command justice system frequently punishes victims—half of whom are men—for reporting such crimes, especially since the perpetrator is often of higher rank than the victim. Retaliation is rampant, say victims’ advocates.

As chairman of the personnel subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee, Gillibrand looked at how such U.S. allies as Israel, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia dealt with their own sexual assault crises in their armed forces, and found that they removed the adjudication of such crimes from the chain of command. So rather than depending on her commanding officer to seek justice on her behalf, a woman raped by a fellow soldier would see that crime handled by a special prosecutor.

At the June hearing at which generals, admirals, and commandants testified to their commitment to ending the assault crisis, Gillibrand noted that in Israel, reporting of such crimes by their victims increased by 80 percent after the adjudication process was removed from the chain of command. And despite the existence of the military’s current crisis for at least two decades, none of the brass could say that they had explored with U.S. allies how the removal of such crimes from prosecution within the chain of command had affected their operations.

Sen. McCaskill took an adversary posture when interacting with military officers at the hearing, but when push came to shove, she stuck with the brass in opposing Gillibrand’s measure.

Watching the momentum gathering behind Gillibrand’s uphill climb, the military has launched a full-court press of lobbyists on Capitol Hill. In the end, the success or failure of Gillibrand’s effort will offer a reading on just who ultimately controls the military—the civilian government, as the Constitution demands, or the generals themselves. In the meantime, if offers an interesting lesson on the dynamics within both political parties.

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  • Julie Hesson

    Supposedly, Ted Cruz was born in Canada. If so, he is Constitutionally ineligible to become POTUS, not having been born on U.S. soil. And wasn’t that the basis for all the Obama birther nonsense?

    • Joe_JP

      Simply being born in Canada doesn’t make you constitutionally ineligible. The birthers use various arguments, so they probably will find some difference.

      • Julie Hesson

        According to Wikipedia, the POTUS must be a natural born U.S. citizen – see “Qualifications,” below. Since Ted Cruz was obviously NOT a citizen at the time of the adoption of the Constitution on 17 Sep 1787, his Canadian birth clearly disqualifies him from holding the office of POTUS. The 14-year residency exception in the “Qualifications” paragraph was a reference to Alexander Hamilton.

        Main article: Article Two of the United States Constitution

        See also: wikisource:Constitution of the United States of America#Article II

        Article II, Section 1 creates the presidency. The section vests the executive power in a President. The President and Vice President serve identical four-year terms. This section originally set the method of electing the President and Vice President, but this method has been superseded by the Twelfth Amendment.

        Qualifications: The President must be a natural born citizen of the United States or a citizen at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, at least 35 years old and a resident of the United States for at least 14 years.[27]

        • Joe_JP

          My reply isn’t here any more.

          The test here is being a natural born citizen, not just being born on U.S. soil. Obama was born on U.S. soil, so it’s easy. But, if we pretend he wasn’t, it would depend on his parents (or parent), who would have to be a citizen for time period required under then current law at the time of their birth (thus, they would be “naturally born” — citizens at birth). Obama’s mom appears not have been, but Cruz’s mom was.

          Birthers at times use a variety of crafty arguments, so the pie can be split any number of ways, but using reasonable arguments, Cruz is most probably a natural born citizen for purposes of the Constitution.

          • Julie Hesson

            Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was born (1942-11-29)November 29, 1942, at Wichita, Kansas. Both of her parents were born in Kansas, which makes Obama’s maternal ancestry thoroughly American, for POTUS qualification. Cruz certainly does not qualify.

          • Joe_JP

            First, to repeat, Obama is obviously a U.S. citizen. He was born in Hawaii.

            Let’s pretend he was born outside the U.S. Given the law at the time, it appears that at least one of his parents would have to be a citizen and reside in the U.S. for at least ten years, five spent after the person is 16. Being 18 at the time of his birth, she might not have met this test. Her “thoroughly American ancestry” isn’t the test there.

            Ted Cruz’s mother was an American citizen at the time of his birth. She went to Rice in the 1950s. He was born in 1970. I think the rules in place when Obama was born changed by then, but either way, she would have meant the residency requirement to make Ted Cruz natural born — she was an American citizen, so by law, he was too thru her. Even being born in Canada.

            To repeat myself, birthers have a lot of conspiracy theories, so they could figure out a way to hairsplit like the best of them, but reasonably looking at the rules, Cruz is a natural born citizen.

          • Julie Hesson

            Why “pretend” anything? The fact is, Obama’s mother never left the U.S. until 3 months before she turned 25, thus covering the “16 + 5” years test. So – why do you think Cruz is just as qualified to be POTUS? He may have been “natural born,” but he was not “native born,” meaning he was not born in the United States, nor was he born on U.S. possession soil, such as an embassy or a U.S. military base, as was John McCain.

          • Joe_JP

            Obama has to be “natural born” — so he has to be born on U.S. soil (and military bases etc. probably count) [and he obviously was] OR at least one of his parents would have had to be a citizen that met the rules at the time. At the time, his mother had to spend a set number of years after she were 16. She was 18 when he was born. IF he was not born in the U.S., that might not have been enough time. Okay?

            Cruz was born in Canada, but his mother was a citizen for the number of years required under law at the time of his birth. So, Cruz was “naturally born” a citizen. He doesn’t have to be “native born.” Why is that an issue? Are you adding new requirements not there?