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Gillibrand asks Schumer to vote on bill to change the way military sexual assault cases are prosecuted

“I think we should have a vote now. This is a signature bill, a generational bill that changes the way we approach military justice, how we build the military justice system that is worthy of the sacrifice that do our men and women in the military, “Gillibrand told CNN’s Jake Tapper on the” State of the Union “when asked if she thought Schumer should put the bill to a vote by floor.

“This Memorial Day weekend, there is no better time to talk about the sacrifice the men and women of our armed forces have made for us,” added the New York Democrat.

The bill, which was introduced last month by a bipartisan group of senators, would make significant changes to the way sexual assault cases are handled, shifting decision-making power over whether to lay charges at the level of chain of command crimes. But Gillibrand was frustrated with the statute of the legislation, which remained on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Its chairman, Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, said last week that he supported a smaller change that would only shift decision-making power over the prosecution of sexual assault cases, not all charges at the level crimes. Reed proposed including the change in the National Defense Authorization Act’s annual process rather than in a stand-alone bill.

Divergent views within parties on the issue were fully visible on Sunday, with Gillibrand targeting Reed’s position by saying his narrowly defined change would set up two unequal justice systems within the military.

“His insistence on limiting this bill to one crime – the crime of sexual assault – you are essentially going to break the criminal justice system within the military. You are going to create a justice system for a bunch of plaintiffs. and the defendants and the rest for everybody. It’s not fair, ”she told Tapper.

“Women will use this tribunal. It will become a rosy tribunal and destabilize and sadly mock the entire criminal justice system,” said Gillibrand, noting that while men are also sexually assaulted in the military, they are less susceptible. submit complaints.

“Senator Reed wants real, lasting and comprehensive reform. He is the first SASC president in history to commit to pushing sexual assault cases off the chain of command,” said Chip Unruh, director communications from Reed, in a statement Sunday to CNN. “He also believes Congress should include other key initiatives to help prevent sexual assault and harassment, change culture and deliver justice.”

The bill, which was originally introduced by Gillibrand, Republican Representatives Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa and others, would also take preventative measures, including increasing the training of all members of the The ROTC army to enlisted officers, as well as criminal investigators and military prosecutors, so they have the tools they need to work on sexual assault and domestic violence cases.

The new bill comes after years of work on the issue between Ernst and Gillibrand, and an evolution in the Senate where lawmakers have worked to change the culture of the military but say they still haven’t seen enough results. In 2014, Gillibrand led the fight to withdraw the decision to prosecute military sexual assault cases against commanders. The effort did not follow party lines, as it drew Republican supporters like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas to its efforts. But the bill ultimately failed and did not get 60 votes, in part because of the then-Sens Democratic opposition. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Carl Levin of Michigan, who was then chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

Gillibrand explained on Sunday that the legislation was needed to help eliminate bias in the impeachment process.

“To remove bias from the system in all areas, you need a qualified military prosecutor to decide whether to stand trial. It takes them out of the chain of command. The chain of command has bias because they can know. the author, the accused, ”she said.

“They can know the survivor and they can have a certain lens as to which serviceman is best suited to wage a war or better for good order and discipline in the ranks. This bias is inappropriate when it comes to serious crimes, “added the senator.

CNN’s Lauren Fox, Jeremy Herb and Ali Zaslav contributed to this report.


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