OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Gillibrand bill defeated

The Topline: In a long-awaited vote, the Senate on Thursday defeated Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial Overnight Energy: Schumer votes against USMCA, citing climate impact | Republicans offer details on their environmental proposals | Microsoft aims to be carbon negative by 2030 MORE’s bid to take military sexual assault cases outside the chain of command.

The Senate defeated Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) measure in a 55-45 vote, five short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.

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The heated fight over the chain of command pitted Gillibrand against fellow Democratic Sens. Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinThe Trumpification of the federal courts Global health is the last bastion of bipartisan foreign policy Can the United States Senate rise to the occasion? Probably not MORE (Mich.) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillHow Citizens United altered America's political landscape #MidnightMoscowMitch trends amid criticism of McConnell's proposed impeachment trial rules The most expensive congressional races of the last decade MORE (Mo.), as well as Pentagon leaders.

Thursday’s vote brings to a close Gillibrand’s nearly yearlong effort to get a vote on her legislation, which would take the decision to prosecute major criminal cases away from commanders.

The senator has vowed to fight on. She said the chamber failed victims of sexual assault on Thursday that but she would continue to push her proposal on this year’s Defense authorization bill.

“For a number of people an incremental step was more meaningful to them and they wanted to see what happens," Gillibrand said. "I think there will be many more senators who will side with us [next time].”

Gillibrand’s bill divided senators in both parties. She had the support of 44 Democrats and 11 Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' Tensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum No. 2 GOP leader eyes Wednesday of next week for possible votes on witnesses MORE (R-Ky.) and 2016 hopefuls Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWhat to watch for on Day 3 of Senate impeachment trial Democrats' impeachment case lands with a thud with GOP — but real audience is voters Restlessness, light rule-breaking and milk spotted on Senate floor as impeachment trial rolls on MORE (R-Texas) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSekulow indicates Trump should not attend impeachment trial Trump sets record for tweets as president on day House makes impeachment case Rand Paul invites Trump to see 'partisan charade' at Senate trial MORE (R-Ky.).

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRestlessness, light rule-breaking and milk spotted on Senate floor as impeachment trial rolls on Senator-jurors who may not be impartial? Remove them for cause Broad, bipartisan rebuke for proposal to pull troops from Africa MORE (R-S.C.) implicitly criticized Cruz and Paul for backing the legislation, questioning their credentials as a potential commander in chief and vowing to raise the issue in 2016.

The fight was most intense among Democrats, however. Gillibrand won the support of more than three-quarters of Democrats, including every female senator besides McCaskill.

McCaskill said that the heated political fight has taken a toll, noting an advocacy group had taken out an ad in her hometown paper attacking her, but she said she never considered backing down.

“I was so confident that the policy was right, it is something that I couldn’t have slept at night if I would have folded on this,” McCaskill said.

There were a few surprises in the final vote. Gillibrand had said that she had 55 public supporters going into the vote, but she lost two senators: Mark KirkMark Steven KirkBiden campaign releases video to explain 'what really happened in Ukraine' Why Republicans are afraid to call a key witness in the impeachment inquiry Ex-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR MORE (R-Ill.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperDemocrats ask if US citizens were detained at border checkpoints due to Iranian national origin Democrats, greens blast Trump rollback of major environmental law EPA employees push 'bill of rights' to protect scientific integrity MORE (D-Del.).

Kirk said after the vote that he changed his mind because he was concerned with how broad Gillibrand’s language was. Her bill would affect all non-military-specific crimes that carry a punishment of one year or greater.

Kirk said that he was speaking with Gillibrand and Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMartha McSally fundraises off 'liberal hack' remark to CNN reporter Meghan McCain blasts NY Times: 'Everyone already knows how much you despise' conservative women GOP senator calls CNN reporter a 'liberal hack' when asked about Parnas materials MORE (R-Ariz.) on the floor before casting his vote.   

Could Obama have made a difference?: After the vote, Gillibrand said that the support of President Obama and the White House would have tipped the scales in her favor.

Gillibrand said she lobbied the White House to come on board with her proposal, but in the end the White House mostly stayed out of the fight between McCaskill and Gillibrand.

After the National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law, Obama issued a statement saying that he was giving the military one year to show improvement on military sexual assault or he would support additional reforms.

“I made my greatest case,” Gillibrand said Thursday. “The president has been very clear he wants to end sexual assault in the military, and he wants there to be further study to see progress and whether it’s been accomplished.”

Sequestration ship not turning around: Lawmakers are coming to grips with a 2015 proposed defense budget that would cut the Army down to 420,000 active-duty soldiers and cut the number of aircraft carriers down to 10.

If defense budget caps known as sequestration are reversed, and the Pentagon is allowed to spend $115 billion above budget caps, it could keep the active-duty Army end strength at between 440,000 to 450,000 levels and keep 11 aircraft carriers. 

However, during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday where Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelAlmost 100 former officials, members of Congress urge Senate action on election security GOP Senate candidate said Republicans have 'dual loyalties' to Israel White House aide moves to lobbying firm MORE and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey testified on the budget request, lawmakers admitted overturning sequestration is not likely. 

“I don't see any way that it's going away right now,” said Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.).

“That's not going to happen. ... So, we've got the number we've got,” echoed ranking member Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithBroad, bipartisan rebuke for proposal to pull troops from Africa Lawmakers push back at Pentagon's possible Africa drawdown Overnight Defense: Foreign policy takes center stage at Democratic debate | House delivers impeachment articles to Senate | Dems vow to force new vote on Trump's border wall MORE (D-Wash.).

McKeon said the only way sequestration would be overturned would be if the American people lobbied their lawmakers for additional defense spending. 

“If we're going to be able to change sequestration, I think the American people are going to have to [get upset],” he said. 

But Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) placed the burden squarely on his fellow lawmakers.  

“We could have a larger budget if we had the courage to vote for it. We could find savings in other places. We could have additional revenues, but that's what's lacking, is congressional courage,” he said. 

“So, let's not blame the witnesses [Hagel and Dempsey]. They're doing the best they can under very difficult circumstances,” he said.  

Navy sends destroyer to Black Sea: The Navy announced Thursday it was sending a guided-missile destroyer to the Black Sea amid the crisis in Ukraine.

The move comes a day after the Pentagon decided to send six additional F-15s to Poland, to reassure NATO allies after Russian forces moved into the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. 

The Navy said in a statement that the deployment was “routine” and planned before the crisis unfolded. 

"While in the Black Sea, the ship will conduct a port visit and routine, previously planned exercises with allies and partners in the region," the statement said. 

The USS Truxton left the Greek port of Souda Bay on Thursday to carry out joint training with Romanian and Bulgarian forces, the Navy said. 

The Truxton is part of the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier strike group, which is currently operating in the Mediterranean Sea. 

 

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