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Senate Debates Military Sexual Assault Amendments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate is debating two amendments regarding sexual assaults in the military, with Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., on opposing sides.

The two Democratic female senators have introduced separate amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act on how to best handle the problem of military sexual assaults. Gillibrand’s proposal to remove the chain of command from the prosecution of military assaults has gotten much of the attention in the debate, but Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is a strong opponent.

“Although most women commanders have acknowledged that even though this sounds seductively simple,  it is much more complicated, and we will create even more problems than we will be solving if we make the change that is advocated by Senator Gillibrand,” McCaskill said on the Senate floor.

McCaskill has introduced an amendment of her own, which includes plans to eliminate the good soldier defense, allows victim input in the prosecution of their perpetrators and allows sexual assault victims to challenge the military if they are discharged or separated from service.  Gillibrand announced Wednesday morning that she will support McCaskill’s plan, but she believes it does not go far enough.

“While the changes in the McCaskill amendment are very good, I do not believe that they are enough to truly assure justice for victims of sexual assault. For that you essentially need impartial, unbiased, objective consideration of the evidence by trained military prosecutors, which is what my amendment will provide,” Gillibrand said.

Gillibrand picked up another supporter Wednesday, bringing her count of Senators who publicly support her plan to 51.  She needs 60 votes in order for it to pass.

But while the two women disagree, they both praised each other’s work.

“Although we disagree on my amendment, I want to remind all our colleagues that the defense authorization has been made stronger in innumerable ways by Senator McCaskill’s work, advocacy and dedication,” Gillibrand said.

“I want to thank Senator Gillibrand.  We both want fundamental reform. We both are working as hard as we know how to get it.  We have a fundamental disagreement about how best to obtain that goal, McCaskill said.

The Senate has yet to schedule a vote on the amendments.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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