‘Chain of Command’ Overshadows Military Sexual-Assault Bill

Senate members remain divided over a bipartisan amendment helmed by Kirsten Gillibrand

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Senate members clashed over a proposal to allow sexual-assault victims to seek outside legal action rather than go through their military chain of command, leaving a bipartisan effort lacking enough votes to pass.

Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s proposal strips commanders of their power to prosecute sexual-assault cases. Gillibrand has support from nearly half the Senate, but opposition from the Pentagon and congressional allies — including two female Senators who are former prosecutors — has halted the proposal, the Associated Press reports.

Critics say the proposal undermines the responsibility of commanders, who should be held accountable for any incidents of sexual assault.

Gillibrand’s revision, which she says has received private support from more than 50 Senators but falls short of the 60 votes needed, is a part of an annual defense-policy bill that the Senate will consider this week.