March 06, 2014

News Wrap: Senate blocks bill removing commanders from military sexual assault decisions

GWEN IFILL: The Senate blocked a bipartisan bill on military sexual assaults today. It would have removed commanders from decisions about prosecuting sexual assault cases. Supporters of the measure, sponsored by New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, argued far-reaching changes are needed to curb the number of rapes and sexual assaults.

Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO, D-Hawaii: This bill has nothing to do with taking commanders and telling commanders they are fired or that they are morally bankrupt. They should continue to be held accountable for creating a command climate where sexual assaults do not occur, or certainly not occur by the tens of thousands.

GWEN IFILL: The legislation was strongly opposed by the top brass at the Pentagon. Senators like South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham agreed with the military leaders that they should have more, not less, responsibility for the conduct of their troops.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: The person we choose as a nation to run the finest military in the world, the commander, has the absolute authority to maintain that unit for readiness, and if you don’t give that commander the tools and hold them accountable, that unit will fall apart right in front of her eyes, because some lawyer somewhere is no substitute for the commander who is there every day.

GWEN IFILL: A majority of senators supported the measure, but it fell five votes short of the 60 votes it needed to advance. Another bill that would impose automatic reviews of a commander’s decision not to prosecute passed. A final vote is scheduled for Monday.

Read the entire piece at:

Source: PBS NewsHour