Publicly, the military has vowed to do everything it can to combat sexual assault. But privately, it's been in lobbying overdrive to ensure it doesn't have to do much at all, Politico reports. While federal agencies regularly lean on legislators, this push by the Pentagon has been unusually heavy, and included the unusual step of sending lawyers to Capitol Hill to negotiate alternatives, Hill staffers say. Those lawyers gutted the Senate Armed Services Committee's bill, replacing real reform—most notably a provision allowing assault claims to bypass the chain of command—with mild measures the Pentagon has largely already implemented.
The military is well equipped for such campaigns. Unlike every other special interest group, it has an office in the House's office building, and Pentagon-paid officers work as fellows for nearly every member of the Armed Services committees. "Imagine if we had bankers serving as fellows for the Financial Services Committee," marvels one lawmaker who's long supported sexual assault reform. But the idea isn't totally dead; Rand Paul and Ted Cruz yesterday signed on to Kirsten Gillibrand's effort to revive it. (Read more sexual assault stories.)