House OKs defense bill dealing with sexual assault

By By DONNA CASSATA

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House has passed a comprehensive defense policy bill that aims to stem the epidemic of sexual assaults in the military, cover the cost of combat pay for the nation's war-fighters, and fund new aircraft and ships.

The vote Thursday was 350-69, an overwhelming, bipartisan total that puts pressure on the Senate to act before it adjourns next week.

The bill would strip military commanders of the ability to overturn jury convictions in sexual assault cases and criminalize retaliation against a victim of sexual assault.

Although the bill has strong support, some Senate Republicans may try to block it, angered by Democratic leader Harry Reid for changing the rules last month to reduce their power over nominations. Reid also denied them a chance to offer amendments to the defense bill.

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