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Lawmakers push new bill to crack down on military sexual assault

The sponsor of a new bill to combat sexual assault in the military pledged Thursday that her legislation would ensure that “never again will a victim have to salute an assaulter."

The effort, led by Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, would require a dismissal or a dishonorable discharge for a member of the military found guilty of rape or sexual assault.

Senators Susan Collins and Claire McCaskill announce a bipartisan piece of legislation aimed at reducing sexual assaults in the U.S. military.

The new legislation – the second bill aimed at addressing sexual assault in the military this month – comes just the day after the Army disclosed that the commander of Fort Jackson, S.C., is being investigated for charges including adultery and a physical altercation.

The incident is just the latest in a string of military sexual misconduct scandals, including two separate cases of men charged with dealing with sexual assault cases being involved in crimes against women.

While the bill would also both prohibit commanders from nullifying or changing a sexual assault conviction, it would not require a charge of sexual assault to be handled outside the chain of command, a provision included in a competing measure sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

Proponents of McCaskill’s measure fear that Gillibrand’s legislation may face too much opposition from the Pentagon to pass through Congress.

"The important thing is to try to get as many of us to agree so we don't end up with a party line vote,"  McCaskill said.  "I am tired of trying to legislate around the gridlock in Congress."

Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who is a cosponsor of both bills, said that action is necessary to help protect women in the armed services.

"What is not acceptable is for us to take half measures, or to do nothing, or pass something that cannot become law,” she said.

They aim to have the measure included in the annual Defense Authorization Act.

Kasie Hunt contributed to this report.

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