U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) speaks while flanked by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) (L), and U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) (2nd-L) and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) during a news conference on sexual assault in the military, July 16, 2013 in Washington, DC (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON (AP) - An effort to overhaul the military justice system to stem the tide of sexual assault has gained a crucial conservative backer in the Senate.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky announced his support on Tuesday for legislation sponsored by Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York that would remove commanders from the process of deciding whether serious crimes, including sexual misconduct cases, go to trial.
That judgment would rest instead with seasoned trial lawyers who have prosecutorial experience and hold the rank of colonel or above.
Paul joined Gillibrand at a Capitol Hill news conference along with other Republicans and Democrats who back the measure. The effort now has the support of 33 senators.
The Senate could decide the issue later this month if lawmakers consider a sweeping defense bill.