Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand delivered the following remarks Thursday following the vote on the bipartisan Military Justice Improvement Act, which despite having the support of a bipartisan majority of the Senate, fell five votes shy of breaking a filibuster.
Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
I want to first thank my colleagues who stood so strong and united in this effort from the very beginning. Your leadership truly made the difference to gain the support of a majority of the Senate.
From the very beginning – this was never about being a Democratic idea or a Republican idea. It was just the right thing to do – that people of good faith from both parties could unite around.
And I want to thank the retired Generals, former commanders and veterans of every rank for making their voices heard – to make the military they love so dear as strong as it can be.
And I want to especially thank all the survivors. We owe our gratitude to the brave survivors who, despite being betrayed by their chain of command, continue to serve their country by fighting for a justice system that will help make sure no one else suffers the same tragedy they did. Their struggles, sacrifice and courage inspire me every day.
They may not wear the uniform anymore, but they believe so strongly in these reforms that for a full year now, they marched the halls of this Congress, reliving the horror they endured, telling their stories, in hopes that no one else who serves our country has to suffer as they did.
Tragically, today the Senate failed them. Despite earning the support of the majority of the Senate, we fell five votes short of overcoming the 60-vote filibuster threshold. But we will not walk away, we will continue to work harder than ever in the coming year to strengthen our military.
Without a doubt, with the National Defense bill we passed, and Senator McCaskill’s Victims Protection Act, we have taken good steps to stand up for victims, and hold offenders accountable.
But we have not taken a step far enough. We know the deck is stacked against victims of sexual assault in the military, and today, we saw the same in the halls of Congress.
For two full decades, since Dick Cheney served as the Defense Secretary during the Tailhook scandal that shook the military and shocked the nation, we’ve heard the same thing: “zero tolerance” to sexual assault in the military.
But the truth is in the results, and that’s “zero accountability.”
I always hoped we could do the right thing here – and deliver a military justice system that is free from bias and conflict of interest – a military justice system that is worthy of the brave men and women who fight for us.
But today the Senate turned its back on a majority of its members.
As painful as today’s vote is, our struggle on behalf of the brave men and women who serve in our military will go on. We owe so much to those who bravely serve our country, and I will never quit on them.
For the men and women who sign up to serve our country for all the right reasons – only to be twice betrayed by their chain of command – if they can find the courage to make their voices heard to strengthen the military they hold so dear– we have to keep up this fight.
We will continue to the fight for justice and accountability. That is our duty.