Sen. Ernst: Bill On Military Handling of Sex Assault a ‘Template’ of Bipartisanship

Sen. Ernst: Bill On Military Handling of Sex Assault a 'Template' of Bipartisanship joni ernst speaks in chamber Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee nomination hearing in 2020. (Caroline Brehman-Pool/Getty Images)

By Fran Beyer | Sunday, 16 May 2021 12:30 PM

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, on Sunday said a bipartisan effort behind a bill to overhaul the military’s handling of sexual assault cases could serve as a “template” for Congress on how to move legislation, proving “bipartisanship is alive and well.”

In an interview on CBS News’ “Face The Nation” along with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D.N.Y., Ernst touted the bill that would, for the first time, move cases out of the chain of command to trained military prosecutors rather than commanders who often lack legal training. The military would still maintain oversight.

“That give and take we went through to arrive at a solution… has gained the support of 61 co-sponsors,” Ernst said. “This is a template. We want Americans to see that bipartisanship is alive and well.”

“It takes friendships. It takes a lot of discussions,” she continued. “And certainly a partnership and finding compromise through that collaboration. This is what the rest of the Congress should be doing at a time like this, too, taking a very real, a very personal, a very intimate issue and finding solutions. That's exactly what we have done in this case.”

Ernst said the sex assault issue in the military has been a concern for years.

“I do believe that within the command — the chain of command — there needs to be some oversight because of the … horrible behavior, the bad command environment,” she said. “It has really been obviously to me that we need to make a very different change. A large part of that is prevention. We know it is necessary to focus on that because by the time we have a perpetrator and a survivor, then we know we've failed.”

“We want commanders to have control over their units and the soldiers or airmen or Marines or sailors within those commands,” she added. “But what this does, it still allows the notification of that commander so that the commander still can go forward and make changes within that command. They should understand that if there is bad behavior happening in that command, then they have the opportunity to fix it.’”

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