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Washington Beat: Gillibrand Emerging As Fierce Fighter

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The Pentagon has unveiled new regulations that will crack down on sexual assaults in the military, but Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says the new rules are not enough, and her push for change has been putting her in the national spotlight. Washington bureau reporter Michael Scotto filed the following report for NY1.

In 2009, Kirsten Gillibrand was tapped to take Hillary Clinton's Senate seat.

At the time, expectations were low. So low, in fact, that a line of Democrats, including Scott Stringer, threatened to challenge her to a Democratic primary. But now, more than four years later, Gillibrand has emerged as a fierce fighter.

For much of this year, she has been up against top senate leaders and military brass, waging an intense campaign to take the chain of command out of the prosecution of military sexual assaults.

"To increase reporting, let's just listen to the victims. They say it's in the chain of command. That's why they're not reporting," Gillibrand said on June 12.

"You can see her scampering around on the floor of the Senate, jawboning every member," said Sen. Charles Schumer.

Her lobbying has convinced 46 members, including eight Republicans, to join with her.

"I was really persuaded by the argument Sen. Gillibrand presented at the Armed Services hearing," Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said on July 16.

However, she is still shy of the votes needed to pass the bill.

"I will just keep asking for time with my colleagues to talk them through the facts, what victims tell us, why these reforms are necessary," Gillibrand said.

She has also led a campaign this year to stop proposed cuts to food stamps. That fight, though, has no clear path to victory. The bipartisan support that she has found on other issues is elusive.

"We shouldn't be standing by doing nothing when our kids are hungry. And I just think it's a moral issue," Gillibrand said.

Regardless of what happens on any of these issues, Gillibrand has succeeded in making herself known well beyond the Capitol. She is now a regular on national television, she is working on a memoir and she is being talked about as a future presidential candidate.

Her profile-raising activities are made easier by the fact that she doesn't have to face voters in New York for five years. Still, Gillibrand is plugging away in the state this August, not forgetting that her reputation depends a lot on what she does here.

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