Women in the Senate Confront the Military on Sex Assaults
“You’re toast, Graham,” cracked Ms. McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat.
Ms. McCaskill’s joke reflected the seven women now on the Armed Services Committee, a high, and the role that a record 20 female senators are playing on powerful committees. Of the four most prestigious Senate panels — Appropriations, Armed Services, Finance and Foreign Relations — women now hold 18 spots, an increase of nearly 65 percent over the last decade.
But nowhere is the presence of so many women more pronounced than on the Senate Armed Services Committee, where the women on the 26-member panel have forced the long-simmering issue of sexual assault in the military to the forefront on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers have tried to pursue the sexual assault problem for years, with little impact. But now a slew of attention-grabbing bills — most written by women — are intended to end what senior military officials say is a crisis and President Obama has called a disgrace.
“When I raised the issue of rape in the military seven years ago, there was dead silence,” said Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat and member of the committee. “Clearly they are changing things around here.”