Vote on sex assault measure in jeopardy

The long-awaited vote on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) sexual assault measure is now in jeopardy as legislative work in the Senate risks grinding to a halt in the wake of Thursday's change to filibuster rules.

The Senate is planning to vote Thursday to end debate on the Defense bill without considering more amendments, leaving Gillibrand’s proposal and a competing amendment from Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) sitting in limbo.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had promised Gillibrand she would receive a vote to her measure on the Defense authorization bill.

“I’d really like us to get a vote,” McCaskill, who opposes Gillibrand's measure, told reporters Thursday. “But it doesn’t appear to me it’s likely that’s going to happen anytime soon, if ever.”

Reid sought to move to vote on the Gillibrand and McCaskill amendments Wednesday, but Republicans objected because they wanted to get votes on additional amendments.

That objection was made before the Senate voted Thursday to allow nominations outside the Supreme Court to pass with a majority vote, which has sparked major backlash from Republicans.

“They weren’t willing to vote on our amendments last night, so I don’t have a sense that maybe what we did this morning has made everybody more cheerful,” McCaskill said.

Gillibrand told reporters Thursday that she was disappointed the vote did not happen, but she said she remained confident the Senate would vote on her proposal.

“I wanted to vote on my bill yesterday, I wanted to vote today. But we will get a vote, and I will look forward to it,” Gillibrand said.

The Senate defeated a vote to end debate on the Defense bill 51-44 on Thursday, leaving its fate in the Senate unclear. The Senate has a two-week recess scheduled for Thanksgiving after this week.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Armed Services panel, said he was opposed to voting to end debate unless each side got the chance to offer 25 amendments to the Defense bill.

Gillibrand’s amendment to take cases outside the chain of command has attracted lots of attention and controversy. The measure has divided senators in both parties, and she now has 53 senators who back it.

Gillibrand was expected to need 60 votes for her measure to pass as an amendment to the Defense bill. 

— This story was updated at 5:47 p.m.