Rand Paul, Ted Cruz Beef Up GOP Support for Military Sex-Assault Bill

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Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, today added some additional Republican support to a bill aiming to combat sexual assaults in the military.

In a news conference with bipartisan supporters of the bill, Paul and Cruz each announced they would sign onto the bill intended to take sexual assaults in the military out of the chain of command and transfer them to local civilian prosecutors.

"I'm concerned about justice and I want it to occur in the military for victims as well as for those who are potentially accused," Paul said. "Some say we have no bipartisan cooperation around here. I disagree. I think this is a great example of how people from both sides come together to work on a problem and look honestly at what a problem is.

"I see no reason why conservatives shouldn't support this," Paul said.

The issue of sexual assaults in the military came to the forefront on Capitol Hill after a series of sex-crime scandals in the military earlier this year, as well as the release of a Pentagon report in May showing a 6 percent increase in the number of reported sexual assaults last year.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who is the bill's lead sponsor, thanked Paul and Cruz for joining the bipartisan efforts to curb sexual assault in the military

"This is not a Democratic idea," Gillibrand said." It is not a Republican idea. It is a good idea."

Gillibrand's proposal, which is co-sponsored by 32 additional senators, was rejected by the Senate Armed Services Committee last month and has been opposed by military leaders. Although it was not approved by the committee, Cruz said he supported the plan because of Gillibrand's arguments about success in decreasing sexual assault in the British and Israeli militaries by removing reporting from the chain of command.

"I was persuaded by Sen. Gillibrand's exceptionally passionate and able advocacy," Cruz said.

Gillibrand needs to find 51 co-sponsors of the bill to advance debate on the plan in the Senate.