Susan Walsh/AP

Gillibrand Builds Support for Military Sex Assault Amendment

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will get a vote on her effort to prosecute military sexual assaults outside of the chain of command -- a move the Joint Chiefs oppose. By Stacy Kaper

It's not every day that conservative Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., stand shoulder to shoulder with liberals Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. But they did Wednesday, rallying behind an effort from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to combat military sexual assaults by taking the decision of whether to prosecute out of the chain of command.

Gillibrand says she has been promised she will get a vote on her bill in the form of an amendment to the defense-authorization bill, which could hit the Senate floor as soon as next week.

But succeeding is seen as unlikely. The Pentagon and Armed Services Committee leaders adamantly oppose the reform. Gillibrand is asking to only have to meet a simple majority of 51 votes, arguing her amendment is germane, but she expects that one of her opponents—likely Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.—would threaten to filibuster, forcing a 60-vote requirement for passage.

"I think Lindsey Graham said he would do anything to defeat this amendment. I suspect he would feel comfortable doing it. I also think [Sen. James] Inhofe would," Gillibrand said, after holding a press conference to highlight the issue.

Gillibrand said she is lobbying undecided members, trying to get opponents to change their mind, and asking her supporters to also reach out to colleagues one on one. "We have a lot of undecided members, and we have a lot of undecided members who are leaning with us. So although we have 46 stated supporters, I think we will have many, many more," she said. "We will try to meet the challenge of either 51 or 60, and I'm confident we will."

For his part, Paul said he was targeting a group of key Republicans to try to bring on board. "We need a few more Republicans. I've got a list of Republicans I'm talking to," Paul said. "We need probably eight more Republicans and a few more Democrats. But I think there is a lot of momentum."