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Gillibrand vows to vote 'no' on defense spending bill over lack of military sexual assault reform

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Charles Dharapak
Associated Press
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the annual defense spending bill Tuesday night, but it faces criticism by several members of the Senate.

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) plans to vote “no” on the bill next week, because she believes it fails to reform how sexual assault cases are handled in the military’s justice system.

“This bill does not reform the military justice system in a way that will truly help survivors get justice,” she said. "The commander remains the convening authority. Commanders can still pick the jury, select the witnesses, grant or deny witness immunity requests and approve the hiring of expert witnesses and consultants.”

Gillibrand wants to move sexual assault court martial cases out of the military chain of command.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) also believes the bill doesn’t go far enough to protect the rights of victims of sexual assault.

“This measure alone constitutes progress, but it is nowhere near enough,” he said. “As a former prosecutor, this system makes no sense. Crimes related to sexual assault are left in the chain of command.”

The House bill includes sexual assault training, new reporting requirements and improvements to military base security.

Blumenthal plans to still vote “yes” on the bill. Connecticut manufacturers bring in around $20 billion in annual defense contracts.

John is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.