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New York’s Democratic junior Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has 53 senators publicly supporting her bill to fundamentally revamp the military justice system in response to sexual assaults among service members – but that’s seven shy of the 60 she needs to break a filibuster.
But at a news conference she staged today, Gillibrand insisted that next week, when she expects the Senate to vote on her bill, she'll either have persuaded opponents to drop the filibuster of her Military Justice Improvement Act or she’ll have found the 60 necessary votes.
“If this vote is filibustered we will get the 60 votes we need,” she declared.
Asked how she will accomplish this, she said, “By just talking to our colleagues, as we’ve done from the beginning. The support for this bill is growing every day. We have more survivors coming forward. We have more generals and former officers coming forward. We will get the support we need to overcome the filibuster.”
High hurdles remain. Her opponents include Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the influential chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who has waged a long battle against sexual assault in the military and has her own bill to fix the system.
Gillibrand has boosted her standing in the Senate with her persistence and dedication to her bold solution to military sexual assault – the shifting of responsibility for determining whether to prosecute sexual assaults from the chain of command to military prosecutors.
In response to doubters, Gillibrand and her aides like to point out that she also helped drive the Senate to vote to end the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for gay and lesbian service members – despite many the doubters that she would succeed.