Senate blocks change to military sex assault cases

In this Jan. 21, 2014, photo, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel , is interviewed by The Associated Press about her proposal to let military prosecutors rather than commanders make decisions on whether to prosecute sexual assaults in the military, in her Capitol Hill office in Washington. The Senate is heading for a showdown over contentious legislation to curb sexual assaults in the military by taking away the authority of senior commanders to prosecute rapes and other serious offenses. A highly anticipated vote on the bill sponsored by Gillibrand, could come as early as Thursday, March 6, 2014.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
In this Jan. 21, 2014, photo, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel , is interviewed by The Associated Press about her proposal to let military prosecutors rather than commanders make decisions on whether to prosecute sexual assaults in the military, in her Capitol Hill office in Washington. The Senate is heading for a showdown over contentious legislation to curb sexual assaults in the military by taking away the authority of senior commanders to prosecute rapes and other serious offenses. A highly anticipated vote on the bill sponsored by Gillibrand, could come as early as Thursday, March 6, 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has blocked a bill that would have stripped senior military commanders of their authority to prosecute rapes and other serious offenses in the ranks.

The vote on Thursday was 55-45, short of the 60 necessary to move ahead on the legislation.

The Pentagon’s leadership vigorously opposed the measure, arguing that officers should have more responsibility, not less, for the conduct of the men and women they lead.

Proponents of the bill sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand insisted that far-reaching changes in the Uniform Code of Military Justice were necessary to curb the scourge of rapes and sexual assaults.

The showdown vote capped a nearly yearlong campaign by Gillibrand but was unlikely to be the final word.

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