WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate on Monday again took up the issue of sexual assault in the military - this time siding with the Pentagon over how such cases should be prosecuted.
Senators voted 97 - 0 in favor of a measure co-sponsored by Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill. Her bill keeps military commanders involved in prosecuting sexual assaults.
Monday’s vote stands in sharp contrast to last week, when lawmakers blocked a similar measure by New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand. Her bill would have removed the chain of command from the decision-making.
The dueling bills pitted the two women - both Democrats and both lawyers - against one another.
“The argument was posed: ‘It’s victims versus commanders. Whose side are you on?’ And it’s not that simple," said Sen. McCaskill, D-Missouri.
McCaskill’s legislation also eliminates the so-called “good soldier” defense that takes into account the service record of the accused. It gives accusers more say in whether their cases are litigated in the military or civilian systems.
McCaskill’s bill now heads to the House, where it could be wrapped into the defense policy bill this spring. Gillibrand has signaled she may revive her proposal in time for that.