By Becky Hogan
As the Senate returns from the August recess this week, many of the legislative priorities that were thought to dominate September and October have taken a back burner to the Syrian crisis.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand picked up a lot of support this summer on a plan to overhaul how the Pentagon handles sexual assault cases. She not only received national media attention on the issue, but even got two unlikely supporters to champion to sponsor her bill: Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.
But now Gillibrand’s military sexual assault bill now hangs in limbo as Senators shift their focus to another defense issue–whether to allow President Obama to use military force in Syria.
Her TrendPo Ranking–a composite score of her news and social media buzz–illustrates she’s losing steam on the issue.
Before the Senate left for August recess, Gillibrand had approximately 46 senators publicly supporting the bill, although Senate democrats were split on the issue.
Gillibrand’s proposed legislation would remove sexual assault cases from the military chain of command. Her bill faces competition from a rival bill, sponsored by Democratic Senators Carl Levin and Claire McCaskill, which aims to solve the sexual assault problem without changing the military chain of command.
While Gillibrand’s national media coverage has waned in August, the junior Senator has taken advantage of New York media outlets to continue championing her cause.
Her national media coverage has fallen fast in the last two months, but she has been able to hang on to state media coverage.
In mid-August she even made an appearance on the Daily Show to drum up support for the bill. Interestingly, the New York Senator saw her highest social media gains of the summer in August which could indicate that the issue is still resonating well with her base.
But while the debate on Syria is not directly related to the sexual assault bill, military leaders have admitted that the problem of sexual assault usually falls by the wayside during times of war, as has been the case in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
On the other hand, the delay could help garner more support for the issue — giving Gillibrand and her allies more time to expose undecided senators to victims’ stories and the Pentagon’s lack of enforcement on these issues.
We’ll continue to watch the TrendPo rankings to see if Gillibrand is able to regain support for her legislation.