Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is vowing to fight on after a top Senate Democrat killed legislation she spearheaded aimed at cracking down on military sexual assaults. Washington bureau reporter Michael Scotto filed the following report.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was furious.
"The chain of command has told us for decades that they will solve this problem, and they have failed," she said.
On Wednesday, a Senate committee rejected her legislation to remove the chain of command from the prosecution of sexual assaults.
"I believe that doing so would weaken our response to sexual assault and actually make it less likely that sexual assaults would be prosecuted," said Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan.
The vote was a win for top military brass, who had opposed the measure, and a setback for Gillibrand, who has made fighting sexual violence in the military a centerpiece of her agenda.
In place of Gillibrand's bill, the committee did give the green light to legislation that lawmakers said would crack down on the problem.
That bill would add an extra layer of review to assault cases that aren't prosecuted and make retaliation against victims a crime.
Gillibrand said those steps will help, but won't do enough to get victims to come forward.
"To increase reporting, let's just listen to the victims," she said. "They say it's in the chain of command. That's why they're not reporting."
A Pentagon survey found last year that there were 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact. Gillibrand pointed out that just a fraction of those were reported.
This is hardly the end of Gillibrand's fight. She insisted she's will take her measure directly to the Senate floor.
"We have almost 30 co-sponsors now," she said. "We just picked up a few more senators who support the bill in this hearing. So we are hopeful that we can get to the 51 we would need to pass an amendment."
Still, Gillibrand knows it's going to be an uphill fight.