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Kirsten Gillibrand’s Military Sexual Assault Bill Faces Filibuster Threat

Emily Crockett

Sen. Claire McCaskill has said she will filibuster her Democratic colleague's Military Justice Improvement Act, which would remove prosecution decisions for serious crimes like sexual assault from the military command.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has said she will filibuster her colleague Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA), which would remove prosecution decisions for serious crimes like sexual assault from the military command.

Military sexual assault bills from both McCaskill and Gillibrand are expected to receive a vote next week in the Senate, but the two Democratic women disagree strongly on whether stripping commanders of their prosecuting authority in these cases is the right approach. Gillibrand has said she backs McCaskill’s bill and would vote to start debating it, but McCaskill said Thursday that she would not do the same for Gillibrand’s.

“There’s a disagreement here,” McCaskill told reporters on Capitol Hill. “We do not believe that her bill will protect victims. We do not believe that it will result in more prosecutions. We do not believe it will increase reporting. And we believe there’s real workability problems in terms of how quickly these cases will be brought to court.”

McCaskill has spoken out against excessive Republican filibusters, but her office told the Huffington Post that there was no irony in McCaskill’s position because filibustering a deeply controversial piece of legislation is a separate issue from Republican abuses.

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Gillibrand maintains that victims have no faith in commanders’ willingness to help them, and that attackers are frequently someone in the chain of command.

“Trust in our system has been irrevocably broken due to the apparent bias and conflict of interest posed by a closed system where the boss holds all the cards,” Gillibrand said at a Thursday press conference advocating for the MJIA.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) expressed dismay at the press conference that the MJIA might be shut out of floor debate.

“We shouldn’t have to get to 60,” said Boxer. “Justice should never be filibustered.”

Gillibrand has said she is confident she can get the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.

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