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Gillibrand reintroduces proposal to confront military sexual assault

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Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandHarris calls Trump ‘a national security threat’ after he says he’d take information from foreign power Harris calls Trump ‘a national security threat’ after he says he’d take information from foreign power Warren, Gillibrand double down on impeachment after Trump interview MORE (D-N.Y.), a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, on Thursday reintroduced her bill to tackle military sexual assault.

Dubbed the Military Justice Improvement Act, the bill would take the decision to prosecute sexual assault cases away from military commanders and give it to independent military prosecutors.

“Our nation’s military leaders have spent decades promising ‘zero tolerance’ on sexual assault, but it’s painfully clear that they’ve failed at that mission. The Pentagon, by its own admission, is out of time – and should now be out of excuses,” Gillibrand said in a statement Thursday. “For years, survivor after survivor has told us the change we need to make in the military justice system to end the scourge of sexual assault in our military – the same change that some of our allies all around the world have already made: move the decision to try these crimes outside of the chain of command to trained military prosecutors.”

Gillibrand has introduced the bill every year since 2013 as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The proposal has not been voted on in the last couple years amid broader disputes over which amendments get voted on for the NDAA. The last time the amendment got a vote in 2015 it did not reach the 60-vote threshold needed to pass.

The Pentagon and other opponents of the proposal argue it would undermine the military justice system.

In her statement, Gillibrand slammed the “incremental reforms” the Pentagon has taken in past years, saying “they clearly haven’t worked.”

Sexual assault is still pervasive – in fact the latest DoD numbers show that sexual assaults in the military have dramatically increased while the number of cases going to trial has gone down,” she said. “None of this is acceptable. It’s long past time for Congress to step up and create accountability where the DoD has failed.”

The Pentagon’s latest report on sexual assault showed the number of cases of unwanted sexual contact — a term that covers groping to rape — jumped to 20,500 in 2018 from 14,900 in 2016.

Gillibrand’s bill has 29 co-sponsors, including fellow Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenHarris calls Trump ‘a national security threat’ after he says he’d take information from foreign power Harris calls Trump ‘a national security threat’ after he says he’d take information from foreign power Warren, Gillibrand double down on impeachment after Trump interview MORE (D-Mass.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand Bennet2020 Democrats mark three years since Pulse nightclub shooting 2020 Democrats mark three years since Pulse nightclub shooting Democratic debate deadline: What we know and don’t know MORE (D-Colo.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharNew lawsuit poses major threat to T-Mobile, Sprint merger New lawsuit poses major threat to T-Mobile, Sprint merger Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers angered over Border Patrol breach | Senate Dems press FBI over Russian hacking response | Emails reportedly show Zuckerberg knew of Facebook’s privacy issues | FCC looks to improve broadband mapping MORE (D-Minn.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker submits debate certification proof ahead of qualification deadline Booker submits debate certification proof ahead of qualification deadline 2020 Democrats mark three years since Pulse nightclub shooting MORE (D-N.J.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersTop Sanders adviser says brokered convention ‘definitely’ possible Top Sanders adviser says brokered convention ‘definitely’ possible First major ‘Medicare for All’ hearing sharpens attacks on both sides MORE (I-Vt.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarris calls Trump ‘a national security threat’ after he says he’d take information from foreign power Harris calls Trump ‘a national security threat’ after he says he’d take information from foreign power Budowsky: A Biden-Warren ticket in 2020? MORE (D-Calif.).

The bill also has a few Republican co-sponsors: Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySteve King denied seat on Air Force One for Trump trip to Iowa: report Steve King denied seat on Air Force One for Trump trip to Iowa: report Grassley: ‘Congress has delegated too much authority to the president’ MORE (Iowa), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care: Pelosi to change drug-pricing plan after complaints | 2020 Democrats to attend Planned Parenthood abortion forum | House holds first major ‘Medicare for All’ hearing Overnight Health Care: Pelosi to change drug-pricing plan after complaints | 2020 Democrats to attend Planned Parenthood abortion forum | House holds first major ‘Medicare for All’ hearing Trump judicial nominee says he withdrew over ‘gross mischaracterizations’ of record MORE (Texas) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland Overnight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland Senators clinch votes to rebuke Trump on Saudi arms sale MORE (Ky.).

The Senate version of the NDAA already includes several provisions meant to tackle sexual assault, including making sexual harassment a stand-alone crime in the military justice system, requiring a new policy to “reinvigorate the prevention of sexual assault” and requiring commanders to be trained in all stages of military justice related to sexual assault.

The House Armed Services Committee, meanwhile, approved Wednesday an amendment to its version of the NDAA to create a pilot program for a chief prosecutor to make recommendations on prosecuting sexual assault at military service academies rather than commanders. 





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