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Gillibrand Calls on Obama to Back Military Sexual-Assault Bill
By Lisa Lerer
May 14, 2014 3:27 PM EDT

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said she will keep pressuring President Barack Obama to support her proposal to curb sexual assault in the military by taking away commanders’ ability to prosecute such cases.

“The audience I was most disappointed that we didn’t win over was the president,” Gillibrand, a Democrat, said at a lunch in Washington today hosted by Bloomberg View. “He can do this all by himself.”

Her plan would turn sexual assault cases over to independent prosecutors outside the alleged victim’s military chain of command. The Senate’s March 6 vote that blocked the bill was “crushing,” Gillibrand said. The 55-45 vote was five short of the 60 needed to advance the legislation.

Obama didn’t take a position on the bill, which was opposed by the Pentagon. Gillibrand said she has asked the president to meet with military personnel who have suffered sexual assaults.

“The president has an opportunity to lead on this issue,” Gillibrand said. “If the commander in chief says it should change, it will change.”

Though occasionally mentioned as a potential presidential candidate, Gillibrand said she doesn’t plan to run in 2016 even if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who also represented New York in the U.S. Senate, decides not to run.

“I believe Hillary is going to win,” she said. “I do not want to run. I do not have an aspiration to run. I’m not planning to run.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Lisa Lerer in Washington at llerer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at jschneider50@bloomberg.net; Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net Laurie Asseo