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Gillibrand hopes to attach sexual assault bill to military authorization bill

Ryan Delaney
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. (file photo)

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s proposal to change the way the military deals with sexual assault cases could come up for another vote in this month’s lame duck congressional session.

Gillibrand (D-NY) fell five votes short last spring of getting a bill passed that would overhaul military sexual-assault policies. But she says she wants to bring it up again, attaching it to a military authorization bill that has to be approved by the end of the year.  

“I would like to try and have one last vote in this Congress because when we pass the military authorization bill, that’s one of our must passed bills," Gillibrand said. "It would be an appropriate amendment to that. And I want to go back to those few senators who thought they might change their view. If we don’t get the 60 we need, we’ll push it in the next Congress.”  

She’s using a recent article from The New York Times that is critical of changes in the way these cases are tried as ammunition.

“I forwarded that article to a number of my colleagues who said to me during the last vote that if we don’t fix this in the next year, that I’m with you," Gillibrand explained. "So I’m going back to that dozen or so colleagues to please review this article, please understand what’s happening, that these reforms are not enough. That the fundamental bias in the chain of the command is the impediment. And that we are not seeking changes because they have biases."

She says the Times article also suggests year-old reforms haven’t made a difference in the prosecution of these cases.

“Despite our good effort at basic reforms last year, we haven’t seen the shift in the change of behavior that we really need, and we haven’t seen the leadership out of the military that is also needed."

Gillibrand’s proposal would take prosecutorial authority out of the chain of command. She says if the legislation doesn’t pass this year, she’ll bring it up in the next session.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.