By The Hill Staff - 11/18/13 07:48 PM EST
This is an important week for Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDems separated by 29 votes in NY House primary Former Gillibrand aide wins NY House primary Dems celebrate anniversary of gay marriage ruling MORE (D-N.Y.) and her legislative effort to reduce sexual assault in the military.
Since unveiling her bill in May, Gillibrand has been building up support for her legislation that would remove sexual assault cases from the military chain of command.
For Gillibrand, a former House member who has indicated an interest in running for the White House, combating sexual assaults has become her signature issue.
But she is pitted against powerful lawmakers, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl LevinCarl LevinFight for taxpayers draws fire Gun debate shows value of the filibuster House won't vote on Navy ship-naming restrictions MORE (D-Mich.).
Levin and other senators say Gillibrand’s legislation could make it worse for victims and would torpedo the Pentagon’s system of justice.
The Pentagon opposes the Gillibrand measure.
Trying to round up more votes, Gillibrand last week suggested she was considering changing her bill, but supporters balked and Gillibrand backtracked.
In an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” she said, “We’re going to stick to the original plan because it’s a better bill.”
A competing plan is being spearheaded by Levin and Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillThe Trail 2016: Meet and greet and grief McCaskill: I wonder if people voting for Trump are embarrassed VA opposes bill aimed at helping vets in mustard gas experiments MORE (D-Mo.). In recent days, the debate has intensified amid dueling press conferences.
A bipartisan agreement to merge the Gillibrand and McCaskill bills, which had seemed possible earlier this year, now seems unlikely.
The competing pieces of legislation could be debated this week as part of the Senate’s debate on the defense authorization bill. That has caused a headache for Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidOvernight Finance: Obama signs Puerto Rico bill | Trump steps up attacks on trade | Dodd-Frank backers cheer 'too big to fail' decision | New pressure to fill Ex-Im board Iowa poll: Clinton up 14 on Trump, Grassley in tight race with Dem Lynch meeting with Bill Clinton creates firestorm for email case MORE (D-Nev.), who has to decide how to handle the intraparty fight.
Reid usually defers to his committee chairmen. Gillibrand has waged an impressive battle, but she doesn’t appear to have the votes to trump Levin.