The Senate bill now goes to the House, where Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Monday, "The entire House is proud of the bipartisan reforms on this important issue included in last year's defense authorization bill, and we will review this legislation to determine the best way to consider additional reforms in the House."
The Pentagon has estimated that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted in 2012, based on an anonymous survey. Many victims are still unwilling to come forward despite new oversight and assistance programs aimed at curbing abuse, the military says.
Some changes already have been made in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Outraged lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — rewrote parts last year, stripping commanders of their ability to overturn military jury convictions. That law also requires a civilian review if a commander declines to prosecute a case and requires that any individual convicted of sexual assault face a dishonorable discharge or dismissal.
The law also provides alleged victims with legal counsel, eliminates the statute of limitations for courts-martial in rape and sexual assault cases and criminalizes retaliation against victims who report a sexual assault.
Missing Monday's vote were Sens. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.; Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and John McCain, R-Ariz.
Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.