Sens. Paul, Cruz back change in military handling of sex assault cases

Two tea party favorites announced Tuesday they're backing a proposal to remove the chain of command from military sexual assault cases.

Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, will support the proposal being spearheaded by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., which was rejected by the Senate Armed Services Committee last month.

Their support reflects a "strong bipartisan coalition" in favor of Gillibrand's bill, she said.

"This is a great example of how people from both sides can come together to work on an issue," Paul said. "I see no reason why conservatives shouldn't support this. [...] If it appears there is some deterrence to victims reporting the crime, why don't we fix this?"

Even with Paul and Cruz, Gillibrand is well short of majority support for the measure.

Gillibrand faces oppositionnot only from most Republicans and the Pentagon, but also the Democratic chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin as well as committee member Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

"I'm more than willing to go against my party any time, and the other party," Paul said. "This is just an issue that is right."

Most victims say they fear retribution for reporting sexual assault if it's kept within the chain of command, Gillibrand said. Her proposal incorporates a military prosecutor to try the case.

"When our sons and daughters sign up to defend our nation they willingly anticipate facing hostile fire from enemy forces," Cruz said. "But they don't sign up to potentially be subject to sexual assault from their colleagues."

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