The Senate shot down legislation to remove the prosecution of rape from the military chain of command, delivering a stinging defeat for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who has built significant support for the idea in recent months.
The Democratic-led chamber narrowly voted down the proposal, which received 55 votes in favor and 45 against, falling short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster on Thursday.
The Military Justice Improvement Act has been a flashpoint in the super-charged debate about how to stem the epidemic of sexual assault in the military. It would have set up an independent prosecutor’s office to deal with rape and other serious crimes that aren’t unique to the military.
The Pentagon vociferously opposed the proposal, insisting that it would undermine commanders. Proponents pointed to the military’s notorious failure to address the issue, contending that the chain of command was central to the problem.
The bill scrambled party lines, losing Democrats like Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) while picking up the votes of Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY).