Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine says he has confidence in military commanders to handle the rampant sexual assault problem plaguing the military.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree that an estimated 26,000 sexual assaults in the military last year is unacceptable. But Democrats are having an internal fight over how to curb the culture of abuse.
This week, Senate Armed Services Chair Carl Levin led an effort to defeat a measure to have independent prosecutors handle military rape cases, which infuriated the proposal's sponsors who say many service members don't report abuse out of fear of being punished by commanders.
Kaine sided with Levin and military commanders, arguing that relying on independent prosecutors would undermine Pentagon leaders. Kaine also says the proposal cast too wide of a net because it covered other crimes, like arson, perjury, and fraud.
"So before you do something so major and remove all of these crimes from the chain of command, you know, you really need to think about it," he says.
Levin's alternative proposal requires higher-level officers to review alleged sexual assault cases. Kaine is co-sponsoring a measure by Virginia's senior Democratic senator, Mark Warner, that they say would increase whistleblower protections for sexual assault victims.