Sen. Claire McCaskill defended the independence of her work on military sexual assault legislation Thursday, telling two of the nation's top military leaders she would be the first to "kick you until you're senseless" if the military doesn't make more progress on the issue.
"With all due respect to you guys... nobody would be further in front of the line to kick you until you're senseless if we don't get this problem under control," she told Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Adm. James Winnefeld, the vice chairman.
McCaskill, D-Mo., is backing a measure that would force higher-ranking military commanders to review sexual assault cases that officials decided not to prosecute. And she went to lengths Thursday to clarify that her proposal was not crafted with help from the Pentagon or submitted to the Pentagon for approval, as an article in Politico suggested.
"The Pentagon won Round One," said the Politico story that angered McCaskill.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., had led the charge for an alternative to McCaskill's proposals that would take the decision on whether to prosecute sexual assault cases out of the hands of the chain of command. Military brass oppose that alternative.
But the Senate Armed Services Committee endorsed McCaskill's proposal over Gillibrand's.
"We all have the same goal... this is not victims versus the Pentagon," McCaskill said, calling the dichotomy a "disservice to the victims" and saying she was "infuriated" with the suggestion that she was "in cahoots with the Pentagon."
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., who worked on the proposal with McCaskill, was also displeased with the article. The Michigan Democrat said the sexual assault amendment was "not shared" beforehand with the Pentagon, and publicly asked for a correction.
Disclosure: The author worked at Politico until mid-June.