GOP block votes on military sexual assault bills

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) objected Monday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) attempt to bring up two military sexual assault bills.

Reid was trying to set up procedural vote on two competing military sexual assault bills from Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), but Moran objected saying he also wanted a vote on a bill from Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).

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Both sexual assault measures would have been considered as amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but in order to get the bill done before the end of the year, Reid cancelled amendment votes in December.

Moran said that if the two Democratic measures were going to be considered now, that it was only fair that the Senate also vote on Kirk’s amendment, which would increase sanctions against Iran to prevent the country from developing nuclear weapons.

Moran was even willing to have a 60-vote threshold for final passage of Kirk’s bill, but Reid objected to modifying his unanimous consent request saying Iran sanctions weren’t relevant to the issue of military sexual assault.

"I am terribly disappointed that my Republican friends are trying to turn this vital national security concern into a partisan issue by trying to inject into it a setting where it's clearly not relevant," Reid said.

Lawmakers grew increasingly concerned about military sexual assault after the Pentagon released a report last year that showed most instances aren't reported or prosecuted.

Gillibrand's measure would strip the decision to prosecute sexual assault cases away from commanders, but Pentagon leaders oppose that, as do McCaskill and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.).

McCaskill’s bill is far less controversial because it leaves the current system in place, yet adds some protections for victims.

Reid will likely go back to the drawing board in trying to work out a deal to hold votes on the two bills. Although Reid has said he supports stronger sanctions against Iran, the Obama administration has asked him not to hold a vote until after a six-month negotiation with Iran is complete. The administration is trying to get Iran to stop enriching uranium in pursuit of obtaining a nuclear weapon.