Rep. Jackie Speier has been telling every academy recruit she meets and their parents the same thing for years — that sexual assault in the military is rampant. But not a single woman she’s talked to has ever changed her mind about joining. “This is a $400,000 scholarship,” said Speier (D-Calif.)
Meanwhile according to Politico Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s bid to overhaul the military’s sexual assault policies took a big hit Monday after two key opponents said she’s going to need 60 votes for a win.
Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told POLITICO that Gillibrand’s amendment to remove the chain of command from prosecuting major crimes like sexual assault is too controversial to avoid a filibuster instead of a 51-vote simple majority.
Levin, who will manage debate later this month on the annual Defense authorization bill, said he also expected 60-vote thresholds would be needed for amendments dealing with potential National Security Agency reforms, Iran sanctions and to remove language already in the legislation that gives President Barack Obama more discretion to transfer prisoners from the terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay.
“As far as I know people are going to demand 60. And that’s going to be true of not just her amendment, but a whole bunch of amendments,” Levin said.
Levin said he’s gotten assurances from Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that he can have at least one week of floor time on the Defense bill, which typically draws hundreds of amendments, before the Thanksgiving recess. He’s gearing up for the start of the debate by the middle of next week.
“If we have to do it in a week, we’ll do it,” Levin said. “If it’s a regular five-day week.”
Levin has taken the lead on an alternative to Gillibrand’s sexual assault amendment forcing other big changes at the Pentagon, including making it a crime to retaliate against victims who report crimes and stripping senior commanders of their ability to overturn jury convictions.
Gillibrand counts 45 senators besides herself as supporting her sexual assault amendment and aides have expressed doubt about whether opponents would force her to defeat a filibuster when so many sexual assault victims are on her side.
But it turns out there’s still plenty of opposition. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told POLITICO on Monday that he’d do “whatever it takes” to block the New York Democrat, including a filibuster.
“I’m dead set against taking this out of the chain of command,” Graham said. “You can’t fix any problem in the military where you exclude the commander.”