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Gillibrand continues hold on nominee for Navy’s No. 2 civilian position

Senate Armed Services Committee member Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has no immediate plans to lift her hold on the Obama administration’s nominee for under secretary of the Navy – the second-highest ranking civilian position in the force – Gillibrand’s office said Monday.

An aide to Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said the senator has made no move to allow the nomination of Jo Ann Rooney to reach the Senate floor, after initially announcing her intention last week. It was unclear at the time whether Gillibrand’s hold was temporary, as senators often do when seeking additional information, or more of a final decision.

Gillibrand said in a statement she is upset by Rooney’s opposition to a Gillibrand bill that would reform how sexual assault cases in the military are handled, by removing decisions about seeking courts martial out of the hands of commanders and assigning them instead to a prosecutor outside the chain of command.

In a statement to the press last week, Gillibrand called Rooney’s opposition “shocking.”

“The United States legal system is based on evidence, justice and due process. Why isn’t this good enough for our servicemembers who risk everything to protect those freedoms? The brave men and women we send to war to keep us safe deserve nothing less than a justice system equal to their sacrifice,” Gillibrand said.

“If you were a servicemember raped on duty, why would you have confidence to come forward and report after hearing that basing decisions to prosecute solely on evidence would be a bad outcome? Jo Ann Rooney’s testimony should send chills down the spine of any member of the armed services seeking justice.

“It is time to restore that trust, which underlies the whole premise of good order and discipline. It is time to move the sole decision-making power over whether serious crimes akin to felony go to trial from the chain of command into the hands of non-biased, professionally trained, military prosecutors – where it belongs.”

Gillibrand plans to introduce the proposal this month as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act sometime before Thanksgiving. It faces opposition from committee chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and there are also rival committee proposals including one from Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.
 

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