Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is trying to shake things up when it comes to how the military handles sexual assault, but her bill, which is currently being debated, hasn’t been getting the best reception from other government officials. Her proposal has divided the Senate, and Republican Senator John McCain is especially outspoken about his criticism. But Gillibrand isn't backing down, and is now even suggesting McCain’s judgment shouldn’t be trusted. Gillibrand commented Wednesday:
“I respect Sen. McCain and we are friends, but with all due respect to him, he was wrong about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and he was wrong about sexual assault in the military...Our job as members of Congress is to provide that oversight and accountability over the military, over the Department of Defense. And there is a growing chorus of military leaders who have even more experience than Sen. McCain who are saying, ‘This should be taken out of the chain of command.’”
On Monday, eleven members of the Senate Armed Services Committee wrote a letter against the military sexual assault bill, explaining that they think it would do sexual assault victims a disservice. Part of the letter reads:
We believe strongly that this would create a system that would actually be worse for victims and significantly undermine the military system of justice and discipline,” the senators wrote. “It could lead to constitutional hurdles for military prosecutions; undermine the ability of prosecutors to execute plea bargains that can spare victims a difficult trial process.
While it may seem like these government officials have the victims’ best interests at heart, as Bustle previously reported that there may be ulterior motives to their opposition:
Of course, it’s all about money. Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s chief, said it would be a “big mistake” to adopt Gillibrand’s plan. The salaries for about 600 attorneys and support staff would tack on an extra $113 million per year to the military’s budget — not including expenses for medical and mental health benefits for victims.
But Gillibrand is standing her ground. She’s not backing down about excluding cases of murder and theft in hopes to get more votes. “We’re going to stick to the original plan because it’s a better bill,” Gillibrand told ABC.
Gillibrand's bill has its fair share of critics and haters, but it's not without support. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid became the bill's 50th public supporter, following his fellow Nevada colleague Republican Senator Dean Heller. That means Gillibrand only needs 10 more votes to pass the bill through the Senate.
“I’m going to support Gillibrand,” Reid said. “People could disagree with my reasoning, but you know … the substance that I’ve looked at, I’ve first of all acknowledged what the committee did; I think they did some good stuff. I think it can be improved.”
Constituents also support Senator Gillibrand's amendment. According to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, nearly six out of 10 Americans agree that an independent group of military prosecutors should be in charge of carrying out cases of sexual assault, instead of going through the military's chain of command.
While it's still unclear if Senator Gillibrand will eventually receive enough votes to pass her military sexual assault bill, but one thing’s for sure: she’s not backing down without a fight.