Another attempt to remedy the sexual assault epidemic in the U.S. military was brought to a halt Monday when two different measures—one sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and another by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)—were denied preliminary votes after Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) insisted on tying the votes to a controversial measure on Iran.
All of the measures were crafted as amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to let the Iran measure go forward. This had the effect of shutting down a vote on whether to proceed to debate on the sexual assault measures, since neither had enough support to overcome a filibuster. Late in the afternoon, Reid sent out a tweet that laid the blame for the thwarted vote on Republicans.
The Iran measure, which has support from some Democrats, would have added the threat of additional economic sanctions to the already heavily sanctioned Iran if its government did not hold up its end of an agreement with the United States and other nations to restrict its development of nuclear material and technology to non-military applications. What makes it controversial is the potential to scuttle current diplomatic efforts being conducted by the Obama administration.
The Gillibrand measure (originally introduced as S. 1752), which would remove the adjudication of sexual assault and other serious crimes from the chain of command, currently has the support of some 54 senators—six shy of the 60 needed to overcome the current obstacle to moving forward to a floor debate.
Currently, if a member of the military who is the survivor of sexual assault by another member wishes to report the crime, the survivor must make the report to his or her commander, who gets to decide whether or not to bring the case to trial.
If the amendment moved forward to debate, supporters believe that the additional votes might be found among currently undecided senators.
“Nowhere else in America would we allow a boss to decide if an employee was sexually assaulted, except in the U.S. military,” Gillibrand said in speech on the Senate floor Monday night.
McCaskill’s amendment (last introduced as S. 1917) would not remove the adjudication and prosecution of sexual assault crimes from the chain of command, but instead seeks to prevent retaliation against those in the military who report a sexual assault by a fellow member, and to prevent a member’s military record from entering into a verdict.
Gillibrand and McCaskill have been at odds over how best to address the assault epidemic in the military. McCaskill is the lone Democratic woman in the Senate who opposes Gillibrand’s measure.
In June 2013, the Pentagon estimated that some 26,000 incidents of “unwanted sexual contact” took place in the armed forces at the hands of fellow military members, and reported that fewer than 3,400 of those incidents were reported.
Garrette Silverman, a spokesperson for Sen. Moran, told the Huffington Post’s Michael McAuliff in an email that Moran actually supports allowing votes on the Gillibrand and McCaskill measures, but objects to Reid deciding which proposed amendments to the NDAA get a vote.