WASHINGTON (Nov. 30, 2021) – U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) are part of a bicameral push of lawmakers urging Senate Armed Services Committee leadership to keep the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act (MJIIPA) in the final National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The inclusion of this bipartisan legislation, cosponsored by both Senators Heinrich and Luján, would create an impartial, fair, and accountable military justice system.
In a bipartisan, bicameral letter signed by 44 senators and 22 members of the House, the lawmakers write, “It is outrageous that the Senate and House Armed Services Committees would even consider stripping out a provision that is backed by a bipartisan majority in both chambers and has been included in the Senate version of the bill.”
The lawmakers continued, “Sexual assault in the military is a serious concern and demands a real solution, not a watered-down provision slipped in the final bill behind closed doors. Retaining the full provision will ensure that the will of this strong majority of members is respected. This provision is the only reform that will provide true independence for prosecutors in the military justice system and is essential to ensure that victims, accused, and the public all have full faith and confidence in the military justice process.”
MJIIPA would professionalize how the military prosecutes serious crimes by moving the decision over whether to prosecute them to independent, experienced military prosecutors, and was successfully included in the committee-passed Senate NDAA for Fiscal Year 2022. MJIIPA currently has 66 Senate co-sponsors and the House companion legislation has 220 co-sponsors, representing a majority of the House.
In addition to the bill’s widespread congressional support, veterans service groups are also applying pressure to congressional leadership. On November 23, coalition of veterans groups—including the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, AMVETS, Student Veterans of America, the Service Women Action Network and Vietnam Veterans of America— wrote a letter to congressional leaders pushing them not to remove or water down military sexual assault reform provisions in the final NDAA. The American Legion sent a similar letter on November 29.
The letter, led by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, was also signed by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Chris Coons (D-Del), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Rob Marshall (R-Kan.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
Read the full text of the letter by clicking here.