(WASHINGTON) — White House officials hosted a meeting with congressional members Thursday morning to discuss sexual assaults in the military, two days after the president declared he has “no tolerance” for such assaults in the military.
“The meeting reflects the level of concern that you heard from the president the other day at his press conference with the president of South Korea,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Austin, Texas.
“He has zero tolerance for this, for sexual assault in the military. And he was clear that, as commander-in-chief, he believes that anyone who engages in sexual assault is dishonoring the uniform that they wear, and that anyone who is a victim of sexual assault should know that he, the commander-in-chief, and the leadership that he has in place has their backs and is actively taking steps to address this significant problem.”
Reacting to the report that showed a six-percent increase in reports of sexual assault in the military, Obama told reporters Tuesday, “We’re not going to tolerate this stuff.”
Thursday’s meeting was convened by Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, and consisted of five additional White House officials, nine senators and seven representatives, according to a White House official.
Several of those at the meeting have introduced pending legislation that would address the issue of sexual assault in the military.
The group of lawmakers discussed a bill proposed by Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., who were both in attendance, that would expand provisions for victims of sexual assault, including providing them with a military lawyer.
Others at the meeting Thursday included Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Kay Hagan, D-N.C., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. The lower-chamber participants were Reps. Susan Davis, D-Calif., Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., Michael Turner, R-Ohio, and Jackie Walorski, R-Ind.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Deirdre Walsh and Eugene Scott, CNN
Phil Mattingly, Tom LoBianco and David Mark, CNN