Senate Republicans objected on Wednesday to holding votes on proposals designed to crack down on sexualt assaults in the miliary.
Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) have drawn up competing amendments to a broad defense spending bill that change how the military handles assault cases. But the Republican senators’ objections have cast uncertainty over when they will be brought up.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) attempted to hold votes on Wednesday evening, but Oklahoma GOP Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn objected. The two senators want assurances from Reid that the Senate will hold votes on other amendments to the defense bill.
Reid declined to guarantee the votes desired by Coburn and Inhofe, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Reid noted there are over 350 amendments to the bill.
In an interview with Jorge Ramos on Wednesday, Gillibrand said that she believed the Senate could reach the 60 votes needed to overcome a potential Republican filibuster and bring the bill to a vote on the Senate floor.
“We are very close to 60 right now,” she said. “In fact, one of my colleagues just announced his support a few minutes ago….we have a growing body of support and I hope we get to 60 today.”
Gillibrand disputed the idea that the military’s existing policies for sexual assault are sufficient enough to deal with the problem.
“The military has said they have zero tolerance for sexual assault for 25 years — since Dick Cheney was the secretary of defense, they have said zero tolerance,” she said. “But what we truly have is zero accountability, and it’s obvious in the numbers.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) expressed frustration over the GOP objections.
“I can’t tell everybody in this body how disappointing it would be if we did not finish this bill tomorrow night or Friday,” Levin said. “If we don’t finish his bill this week, there cannot be a conference report and then for the first time in 52 years there will not be a defense authorization bill.”
ABC News’ Arlette Saenz contributed reporting.
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.