What does New York Democrat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand have in common with Tea Party darlings Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz?
“We’re all fighting against sexual assault in the military and we’re listening to the victims,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said on Wednesday’s Morning Joe with a smile. On Tuesday, her military sexual assault bill earned two new high-profile supporters.
Gillibrand’s proposal to combat military sexual assault would create an independent prosecution system to handle sexual assault cases.
“What victims are telling us is that they don’t trust the chain of command. They’re not reporting these cases because they don’t think justice can be done,” Gillibrand said. “Of the people who do report, 62% are actually being retaliated against. So, the command climate is not such that a victim can come forward without thinking she’ll lose her whole military career.”
Gillibrand's proposal has earned the ire of military commanders and hawks from both sides who say the chain of command must not be disrupted to deal with the epidemic of sexual assaults that occur in the military, but she says there is no other way to end the military sexual assault crisis.
“We need a real reform that has a chance of giving our victims justice,” she said.
Gillibrand's bill was rejected last month by the Senate Armed Services Committee in favor of one by Missouri Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill that would keep commanders in the process, but curb their powers to halt investigations. McCaskill defended her bill fiercely on Morning Joe last month.
"I believe there is less chance of a victim being retaliated against when the commander remains in the process in the beginning,” McCaskill said.
But Gillibrand has kept pressure on since her proposal was reject and is now fueled by conservative support. In addition to Cruz and Paul, three other Republican senators—Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and Maine Sen. Susan Collins—also voiced their support on Tuesday.
msnbc host Chuck Todd noted that while Paul is a natural fit to support bill, Cruz may be trying to soften his image for a presidential run.
"If he does really want to run seriously, these are the things you do," Todd said. "You go find some ways to not look like you're a stereotype."