Senate OKs bill to combat military sexual assault

WASHINGTON - The Senate has overwhelmingly approved a bill that would make big changes in the military justice system to deal with sexual assault.

The vote was 97-0 on Monday. The measure would scrap the nearly century-old practice of using a "good soldier defense" to raise doubts that a crime has been committed.

The bipartisan bill was written by three female senators -- Democrat Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Republicans Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Deb Fischer of Nebraska.

It would impose a half-dozen changes as Congress tries to combat the pervasive problem of rape and sexual offenses that Pentagon leaders have likened to a cancer within the ranks.

The House could act on the bill as a stand-alone measure or incorporate it into a larger defense bill in the spring.

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