The Edge: Victims Without Voices

National Journal Staff

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Victims Without Voices

The Senate panel charged with overseeing the nation's armed services gathers today to review reforms aimed at protecting victims of military sexual assault. That is a good thing. The problem? The deck is stacked against victims.

Of the 20 witnesses, 18 are representing the military, which opposes many of the major reforms being proposed. Only two witnesses represent victims. And none of the witnesses are actual victims of sexual abuse.

It's classic Washington; the voices of the powerful practically boom from the witness table while the little guys can only answer in a whisper. It seems tough to write reforms to protect sexual-assault victims without hearing from the victims themselves—or at least getting a balanced view of the problem—when witnesses representing the status quo outnumber victims advocates 9 to 1.

So if the Senate Armed Services Committee is serious about reform, they may want to hold another hearing—one that actually includes the victims they are trying to protect.

Chris Frates


CHRISTIE SCHEDULES OCTOBER ELECTION FOR LAUTENBERG SEAT. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie today announced that a special election to fill the late Frank Lautenberg's Senate seat will be held Oct. 16, The New York Times reports. The announcement of the date is drawing criticism from Democrats, who argue that the Republican governor is using taxpayer money on two elections for his own political expedience: Christie is up for election in November, and would likely benefit from not having a high-profile Senate race draw Democratic voters to the polls. Christie has yet to name a temporary successor to fill the seat. Read more

  • National Republicans are also fuming at Christie over the scheduling of the election, National Journal's Josh Kraushaar reports.

MILITARY BRASS ACKNOWLEDGE 'CANCER' OF SEXUAL ASSAULT, RESIST CONGRESSIONAL PROPOSALS. Military officials told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee today that the widespread incidence of sexual assault in the armed forces is "like a cancer," but rejected congressional plans to overhaul the disciplinary system, the Associated Press reports. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has proposed shifting the authority over whether cases proceed to trial from commanders to trial counsels of high-ranking officials. "Not every single commander can distinguish between a slap on the ass and a rape," Gillibrand said. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the committee, "Reducing command responsibility could adversely affect the ability of the commander to enforce professional standards and ultimately, to accomplish the mission." Read more

  • The Atlantic has a visual guide of gender diversity at the hearing. 

OBAMA NOMINATES THREE TO D.C. CIRCUIT COURT, BLASTS SENATE 'OBSTRUCTION.' President Obama announced nominations Tuesday to the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (four current Supreme Court justices have served there), The New York Times reports, setting the stage for a confrontation with the Senate over their confirmation. Obama named Georgetown law professor Cornelia T.L. Pillard, federal District Judge Robert Wilkins, and D.C. attorney Patricia Ann Millett and challenged lawmakers to cease their "partisan obstruction." Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said of the news, "It's hard to imagine the rationale for nominating three judges at once for this court given the many vacant emergency seats across the country, unless your goal is to pack the court to advance a certain policy agenda." Read more

  • The president's decision to make three simultaneous nominations could derail Republican plans for a filibuster, or spur Democrats to alter the filibuster rules, The Atlantic's Philip Bump writes. Read more

CONSERVATIVE GROUPS TELL OF IRS TARGETING. Representatives of conservative groups targeted by the IRS for special scrutiny testified before the House Ways and Means Committee today, detailing for lawmakers the "harassment" they faced from agency officials, The Wall Street Journal reports. National Organization for Marriage Chairman John Eastman testified that the IRS had leaked his group's confidential tax information, as well as a list of its donors. Linchpins of Liberty cofounder Kevin Kookogey said that his group still awaits approval two and a half years after submitting its application. "I also lost and continue to [lose] multiple thousands of my own money and had to cease any further official activity for fear the IRS would target me further for harassment," Kookogey told the panel. Read more

  • A report by the Inspector General found that IRS officials were afforded luxury accommodations during conferences, at taxpayer expense. Read more

STATE GOP JOINS FORCES WITH GOMEZ ON $400K AD BUY IN MASSACHUSETTS. Massachusetts Republicans will spend another $400,000 on television advertising in support of Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez, the Springfield Republican reports. The party previously spent $400,000 in May on a media buy backing Gomez. The state party reported just $360,000 cash on hand as of April 30; a spokesperson for Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., contends that the national GOP is providing the necessary funds to the state party, in apparent violation of Gomez's claims of independence. Read more

SEBELIUS: DID NOT SEEK DONATIONS FROM COMPANIES REGULATED BY HHS. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told the House Education and the Workforce Committee today that she has not solicited donations to Enroll America, a nonprofit organization promoting implementation of the Affordable Care Act, from companies under HHS purview, Reuters reports. "I have made two calls involving funding, to Robert Wood Johnson (Foundation) and H&R Block, neither of whom are under the regulatory authority of our office," Sebelius told the committee. The secretary also acknowledged contacting Johnson & Johnson, Ascension Health, and Kaiser Permanente on behalf of Enroll America, but maintained that she did not solicit donations from those companies. Read more

  • The Associated Press reported Tuesday that many top political appointees, including Sebelius, use secret government email accounts to "prevent their inboxes from being overwhelmed."

RUBIO: IMMIGRATION MEASURE DOES NOT HAVE 60 VOTES. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the "Gang of Eight" behind the comprehensive immigration-reform measure pending in the Senate, said on Fox and Friends Tuesday that the bill lacks the requisite 60 votes to defeat a filibuster. "There's a few reasons for it, but one of the things we've learned over the last few weeks through the open process that happened through the committee process and all the public input that we've gotten is how little confidence people have that the federal government will enforce the law," Rubio said. Read more


DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION MARKUP. Wednesday's scheduled markup by the House Armed Services Committee of the fiscal 2014 defense authorization bill is expected to last into the wee hours of the morning. Members are likely to debate everything from what should be done about sexual assault in the military to reforming health care for retirees.

HEARING ON 'DOC FIX.' On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on its latest proposal to come up with a permanent "doc fix," or reform the flawed method by which Medicare payments to physicians have been calculated since 1997. Energy and Commerce has been working with the House Ways and Means Committee on the issue, and both have pledged to make it a priority, although few weeks remain until the August recess, when the Congressional Budget Office is expected to release its latest baseline.


"Gee whiz, the hormone level created by nature sets in place the possibility for these types of things to occur. So, we've got to be very careful on our side." --Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., discussing sexual assaults in the military (Raw Story)


DOES A FORMER PILOT'S ASCENT SUGGEST A CHANGE IN THE NAVY'S CULTURE? In 1987 Timothy Dorsey shot down an American military plane during a Navy exercise, in what could have been a career-ending move. Instead, 25 years later, he was promoted to the rank of admiral, The Washingtonian reports. Though Dorsey never returned to flying planes after the incident and became an intelligence officer, his promotion seemed to go against the general culture of the military, where less serious mistakes can derail a career. But the selection board which recommended Dorsey to be promoted said the Navy has adopted "a doctrine of second chances." Dorsey's promotion was ultimately derailed when Michael Ross, one of the men shot down, claimed injuries from the incident. The last Congress ended without a vote on Dorsey's nomination, and it's unclear whether DOD will renominate him. Read more


THE IRS SAYS 'LET'S DANCE.' Late-night comedy shows came back Monday to the continuing scandals gripping Washington. The news that the IRS spent millions of dollars on conferences led The Daily Show's Jon Stewart to compare the IRS's spending habits to the famed Players Ball attendees. With videos emerging of IRS employees line dancing on a video the agency paid for, David Letterman wondered if there should be a new box on the 1040 form to contribute to similar agency activities. Commenting on the quality of the dancing in the video, Stewart said he was now convinced that "it would be difficult for the IRS to coordinate anything, let alone a Machiavellian political plot." Watch it here


10 BEHIND-THE-SCENES MOMENTS FROM OBAMA'S 2012 VICTORY. From Al Sharpton helping to drive up black turnout to Michelle Obama telling a TV interviewer—in an unaired segment—that she was through having kids, to how the Obama team planned its Benghazi debate trap for Mitt Romney, here's a list of key moments in the 2012 campaign, courtesy of BuzzFeed and Jonathan Alter, whose new book, The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies, is out today. Read more


GALLUP POSTMORTEM LEADS TO POLLING CHANGES. Nearly seven months after President Obama won reelection by a margin of 4 percentage points, the Gallup Organization, the world's best-known polling firm, identified in a new report four main reasons why its 2012 surveys badly understated Obama's support, Hotline's Steven Shepard reports. Among the problems cited: trouble in determining who is a "likely voter," oversampling those in Central and Mountain time zones, oversampling white respondents, and using a listed landline sample as opposed to a random sample. Read more


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