Sen. Gillibrand Fights Other Dems on Military Sexual Assault Bill Vote Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., talks to reporters following the Senate Democrats weekly policy luncheon on Capitol Hill on March 10, 2020, in Washington, D.C. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
By Charles Kim | Tuesday, 25 May 2021 06:24 AM
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., found herself at odds with members of her own party Monday when she attempted to bring a bipartisan bill reforming the way the military handles crimes like sexual assault to the Senate floor.
"If we brought this bill to the floor today, it would pass. We have this legislation, and we have the votes. Now we just need the will to act. I urge all of my colleagues to join me in working to pass this bill as quickly as possible," she said in an article from The Hill.
Gillibrand told her fellow Senators that she had enough bipartisan sponsors to ensure a vote, and was joined by Senators from both parties speaking in support, including Sen. Jodi Ernst, R-Iowa, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
It was, however, Sen. Jack reed, D-R.I., that proved to be her biggest challenge, according to The Hill.
Reed is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee which oversees the military and would have jurisdiction over this kind of bill.
Reed said the bill belonged in front of his committee and objected to voting on it now.
He told Gillibrand that once it went through the committee process, she could offer amendments when came back to the floor.
"I believe that the committee must start from a base that reflects the broadest consensus possible among our members on how best to move forward and on the recommendations of [Defense] Secretary [Lloyd] Austin's 90-day independent review commission [IRC]," Reed said from the Senate floor. "I understand some members would prefer there be nothing in our bill on this topic, while others feel that the IRC recommendations do not go far enough. This is the nature of compromise."
According to a Department of Defense report on Sexual assault released earlier this month, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin established the IRC in February to address these issues within 90 days.
The report said that the military received 7,816 reports of sexual assault involving service members as victims or subjects in 2020, a decrease of nine cases from 2019.
Cases reported by members during military service have increased from 2,828 in 2012 to 6,290 in 2020.
Gillibrand said that Reed and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., the ranking member on the committee, have blocked votes on this topic for years.
"When asked for a vote on this measure over the past several years, I have been denied a vote on this measure on the floor by the chairman and the ranking member," she said. "So, they have been unable or unwilling to allow me to have a vote given all the bipartisan support we've had from the beginning."
Gillibrand is known for being an outspoken advocate for the #MeToo movement dealing with sexual assaults.