WASHINGTON -- An ambitious proposal to stem the rising number of sexual assaults in the military was rejected Thursday after senators from both parties balked at limiting the role of commanding officers in deciding whether to prosecute.
Instead senators advanced a competing bill sponsored by Sen.
The debate produced an emotional -- and rare -- scene Thursday in the Senate, as two of the chamber's top female members argued over the best way to curb the alarming rise in military sexual assaults.
"Listen to the victims," said Gillibrand, reading from their often wrenching stories of fear and retaliation. "The people who do not trust the chain of command are the victims."
But McCaskill, a former prosecutor, relied on a long line of defense hawks in the Senate, including Sen.
"When the sun sets today, this body will have passed 35 major reforms in just a year – making the military the most victim-friendly organization in the world," McCaskill said.
Gillibrand, her voice rising, shot back that the changes were "not even close" to resolving the problem. An estimated 26,000 members of the military -- men and women -- are believed to have been sexually assaulted in 2012, according to the Pentagon. A fraction of those cases are prosecuted, reports show.
"This is not an opportunity to congratulate ourselves," she said.
Both proposals needed to receive a 60-vote threshold to clear the filibuster hurdle.
Gillibrand's measure was defeated, 55 to 45, with 43 Democrats, 11 Republicans and one independent in support.
Senators voted, 100 to 0, to advance McCaskill's measure. A final vote is scheduled for Monday. Despite that bipartisan backing, chances for action in the Republican-controlled House remain slim.
"I don't frankly see any reason at this point for any further action to be taken," Boehner said.