Democratic Fight Erupts In U.S. Senate Chamber

( After years of fighting to pass a bill reforming the US Military’s policy on prosecuting sexual assault and other felonies, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) finally has enough support not only to survive a filibuster, but to get a bill passed.

Unfortunately for Gillibrand, she’s hit a roadblock, not from her Republican colleagues, but from her fellow Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Jack Reed (D-RI).

Under the rules of the Senate, any Senator can set up a vote on a bill. Likewise, any Senator can object.

Which is what happened on Monday.

Senator Reed objected to a stand-alone vote on Gillibrand’s bill, instead suggesting any reform bill originate in his committee where amendments can be debated and added. Then the resulting language be incorporated into the annual defense policy bill instead.

Unlike Gillibrand’s bill, which would remove the decision to prosecute felonies like sexual assault and murder from unit commanders, Reed prefers that any reforms be determined by those who dedicated their Senate careers to the Armed Services Committee – working closely with the recommendations made by the Department of Defense.

Gillibrand has been working on this issue for nearly the entirety of her Senate career. And she was not happy with Reed’s condescending remarks.

A visibly angry Gillibrand responded to Reed, pointing out that this bill has been extensively studied for years, and every time she has asked for a vote, it has been denied by the chairman or ranking member.

Currently, Gillibrand has 62 Senators co-sponsoring her bill, so if a vote was called, it would pass easily.

Senator Reed, however, is not one of the 62 Senators co-sponsoring the bill.

Central to Reed’s objection to calling for a vote on the stand-alone bill would prevent Senators on the Armed Services Committee from adding amendments to Gillibrand’s bill first.

But this is precisely what Gillibrand wants to avoid. Her fear is some of the amendments introduced would expose her bill to what she called “the whims of those who decide what gets taken out in conference.” Gillibrand is concerned that amendments like these run the risk of watering down or minimizing the bill as it is currently written.

You can watch the exchange HERE.