Sens. Cruz, Gillibrand, Colleagues Announce Bipartisan Bill to Combat Sexual Violence in the Military
Our daughters and sons sign up to defend this nation knowing that they will face risk - but none of our daughters and sons should face the risk of assault from their fellow servicemen and women
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) today announced their introduction of the bipartisan Military Justice Improvement and Increase Prevention Act and called for their colleagues on both sides of the aisle to swiftly take up and pass the commonsense reform. This legislation moves prosecutions for sexual assault and harassment from the chain of command to independent, trained professional military prosecutors. Excerpts of Sen. Cruz's remarks are below.
WATCH: Sens. Cruz, Gillibrand Lead Bipartisan Bill to Combat Sexual Violence in the Military
"This is a bill whose time has come. Let me start by thanking Senator Gillibrand for her relentless determination fighting for this bill. As she mentioned, when I was newly elected to the Senate, she and I were serving together on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and I went in to a hearing on this topic with an open mind, not knowing what I thought the right solution was. And there was a vigorous debate. You know, at times people chuckle and suggest debate in the Senate is all theater and not real discussion - I can tell you that debate was a real debate, and the arguments that military leaders gave against this bill, that it would undermine good order and discipline, to my mind, Senator Gillibrand had much more persuasive responses. In particular that our allies, countries like the United Kingdom, countries like Canada, had made similar reforms that had increased reporting rates without undermining good order and discipline. That, to me, was persuasive.
"So for eight years, I have teamed up with Senator Gillibrand fighting for this bill to pass. The alignment has not been a partisan alignment. There are Democrats and Republicans supporting this bill and there have been Democrats and Republicans opposing this bill."
"Our daughters and sons sign up to defend this nation knowing that they will face risk, knowing that they face the risk of being killed by our enemies, but none of our daughters and sons should face the risk of assault from their fellow servicemen and women. It is horrific. It is unacceptable that sexual assault is as prevalent as it is today in the military.
"I have two daughters who are 13 and 10. I don't know if they'll choose to serve, but I damn sure want them protected from sexual assault if they do choose to serve. This is the right solution, and importantly, this is not taking the decision of prosecution out of the military. This is instead responding to the problem that we've heard testimony on year after year after year, which is a commanding officer with divided loyalties where the assailant and the victim - the commanding officer, is potentially conflicted in those loyalties. And moreover, the victim of assault believes the commanding officer is conflicted and so is afraid to report in the first place. And this bill makes a simple and commonsense reform. It moves the prosecution to a military prosecutor outside the chain of command. It remains in the military, but it's a professional prosecutor who makes the decision on prosecution.
"I believe passing this bill will increase the reporting rates, it will increase the deterrence, and that will decrease, and I hope substantially decrease, the rate of sexual assault in the military. Let me say also, the fact that Senator Ernst is here today is a big deal. Senator Ernst has a lot of credibility on many issues, but particularly on this issue with her life experience and passion. Senator, it's coming today, I believe, changes the balance on this bill, changes the momentum on this bill, and I'm going to predict by the end of this Congress, we're going to pass this bill, and it's about damn time."