Military sex assaults: Kristen Gillibrand teams with Rand Paul, Ted Cruz
New York Sen. Kristen Gillibrand has been on the front lines of the fight to reduce sexual assaults in the military. But so far, her plan to prosecute military cases outside of the chain of command has been shot down by the majority of her colleagues.
But now, the Democratic senator is strengthening her position by bringing several top conservative lawmakers Rand Paul and Ted Cruz on board.
“I'm more than willing to go against my party anytime, or against the other party - we should go for what we think is right - this is an issue I obviously think is right,” Paul says.
The issue was brought to light in a Pentagon report detailing 26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military, a newly released Department of Defense report points to alcohol being a major factor - that the majority of victims and attackers are young, enlisted, and that nearly two thirds of the attacks happen on base.
Of the attacks studied, only 8 percent resulted in a conviction while no action was taken at all in one third of the cases.
“They willingly anticipate facing hostile fire from enemy forces. But they don't sign up to potentially be subject to sexual assault,” Cruz said.
Backers of Gillibrand's legislation insisted that leaving the decisions with the commanders has failed to stop a crisis within the military ranks.
"The status quo is not working and we need to shake it up," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., displayed a chart with quotes from defense secretaries past and present - from Dick Cheney in the early 1990s to Chuck Hagel today - saying the military has zero tolerance for sexual assault.
"It's enough with the words. It's enough with the empty promises," Boxer said.
Without specifically commenting on Gillibrand's bill, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the Obama administration would weigh any ideas for improving the military justice system.
"We are open to consideration of any ideas, and that includes proposed legislation, and we will work with Congress and we will work with the Department of Defense on ways to deal with and improve the prosecution and prevention and victim support when it comes to sex assault in the military," Carney told reporters.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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