By The Hill Staff - 11/18/13 07:48 PM EST
This is an important week for Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandCarter pledges probe of sex assault testimony This week: Congress on track to miss Puerto Rico deadline Maryland Senate primary intensifies 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 LevinCarl, Sander Levin rebuke Sanders for tax comments on Panama trade deal Supreme Court: Eye on the prize Congress got it wrong on unjustified corporate tax loopholes 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 McCaskillBill would target retaliation against military sexual assault victims Senate Dem takes on drugmaker: ‘It’s time to slaughter some hogs’ Week ahead: Drug pricing back in focus 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 ReidReid 'fairly certain' Democrats will win Senate Satanists balk at Cruz comparison Cory Booker is Clinton secret weapon 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.