Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas will formally back New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's bill to crack down on sexual assault in the military by creating a new system to prosecute major crimes.
Paul was scheduled to attend a press conference with Gillibrand and other supporters of her legislation to discuss his position, reports Politico
"Sen. Paul believes that the vast majority of our service members are honorable and upstanding individuals," Paul spokeswoman Moira Bagley told the publication.
"In the instance when one is accused of a serious crime, especially one of harassment or assault, the allegation needs to be taken seriously and conflicts of interest should not impact whether a crime is prosecuted properly."
Cruz for his part issued a statement saying, "Several of our strongest allies such as Israel, the United Kingdom, and Germany have made similar reforms to their military justice systems, and seen marked improvement."
Gillibrand's effort follows a Pentagon report released in May
saying that as many as 26,000 service members may have been sexually assaulted last year.
It is considered the most aggressive solution, according to The Washington Post
, and was rejected last month by the Senate Armed Services Committee.
But with the Senate due to begin consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act as soon as next week, Gillibrand has been seeking at least 51 co-sponsors for her proposal in order to force debate on the plan in the full Senate, aides told the Post.
Although the Pentagon has reportedly kept up a strong lobbying campaign to prevent Gillibrand's measure from succeeding, the addition of Paul and Cruz could be a major boost to her efforts.
"Our carefully crafted common sense proposal written in direct response to the experiences of those who have gone through a system rife with bias and conflict of interest is not a Democratic or Republican idea—it is just the right idea," said Gillibrand.
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