Senate Passes Military Sexual Assault Bill, Ends "Good-Soldier" Defense

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 10 2014 9:28 PM

Senate Passes Military Sexual Assault Bill, Ends "Good-Soldier" Defense

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) speaks at a news conference on July 25, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images

There are in fact some things that members of Congress can agree on. With a vote of 97-0, the Senate unanimously approved a set of changes to the military’s sexual assault policies late on Monday night. The bipartisan bill composed by Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Deb Fischer (R-NE), ends the time-old practice of using a “good soldier defense” in cases of assault. Here’s the AP:

The new legislation would change the military rules of evidence to prohibit the accused from using good military character as an element of his defense in court-martial proceedings unless it was directly relevant to the alleged crime. The "good soldier defense" could encompass a defendant's military record of reliability, dependability, professionalism and reputation as an individual who could be counted on in war and peacetime.
McCaskill described it as "the ridiculous notion that how well one flies a plane should have anything to do with whether they committed a crime."

The full Senate backing comes in sharp contrast to a vote just last week on a measure proposed by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) that would have stripped commanders of their ability to prosecute or prevent charges and placed that authority with military lawyers outside the unit in question. Military leaders staunchly opposed the bill, insisting they should have more responsibility for the men and women under their leadership, not less. The Senate came up five votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster, 55-45, on that farther-reaching proposal.

“Although this bill does not create the critical fundamental change needed to improve the military justice system, [McCaskill’s legislaiton] builds on useful reforms already undertaken by Congress,” Greg Jacob, policy director for Service Women’s Action Network, told Politico.

The bill, which also provides legal counsel for alleged victims and criminalizes retaliation against those who report assault, will now move to the House where it is expected to receive a warm welcome.



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 5:30 AM MAVEN Arrives at Mars
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.