Reid backs changes to military’s judicial code following rise in sexual assaults

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidGOP poised to advance rules change to speed up Trump nominees Dems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination The Memo: Teens rankle the right with gun activism MORE (D-Nev.) on Wednesday endorsed stripping military commanders of the ability to overturn guilty verdicts.

In a letter to the heads of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Reid said that he supported a plan proposed by Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelShould Mike Pompeo be confirmed? Intel chief: Federal debt poses 'dire threat' to national security Hagel: Trump is 'an embarrassment' MORE to change the military’s judicial code.

Reid’s letter comes one day after President Obama called for the Pentagon to do a better job curbing the rise in sexual assaults after the department released a report estimating there were 26,000 incidents in 2012, an increase of 37 percent from 2010.

“As you prepare the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, I strongly urge you to include additional legislation to ensure justice for victims of sexual assault in the military and to prevent these horrific acts against service members in the future,” Reid wrote to Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinSen. Gillibrand, eyeing 2020 bid, rankles some Democrats The Hill's 12:30 Report Congress needs bipartisanship to fully investigate Russian influence MORE (D-Mich.) and ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.).

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Hagel issued a proposal last month to Congress that would remove the ability of military commanders to overturn guilty verdicts in most criminal cases during the post-trial review process that’s part of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

Hagel’s proposal would still allow commanders to reduce sentences, provided they provide a written explanation for doing so.

The proposal has gained bipartisan support in Congress, and is expected to be included in this year’s Defense authorization bill, as Reid suggested.

Some lawmakers, however, want to go a step further, and are calling for the removal of all sexual assault cases from the military’s chain of command. Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandSchumer to introduce bill to decriminalize marijuana Navy, Marines chiefs say no morale issues with transgender troops Dem senators call on FCC to protect against robocalls MORE (D-N.Y.) is preparing legislation to do so in the Senate.

Reid said in the letter that proposals from Gillibrand and Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillPompeo lacks votes for positive vote on panel Overnight Energy: Senate confirms Bridenstine as NASA chief | Watchdog probes Pruitt’s use of security detail | Emails shine light on EPA science policy changes Heitkamp becomes first Dem to back Pompeo for secretary of State MORE (D-Mo.) “deserve consideration.”

The military service chiefs have signed off on Hagel’s proposal to change the post-trial review process, but they have indicated opposition to removing sexual assault cases from the chain of command.