WASHINGTON — Angered by the epidemic of sexual assault in the military, the House on Thursday endorsed a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison for a member of the armed services convicted of rape or sexual assault in a military court.
By voice vote, the House approved the additional punishment as part of a series of steps lawmakers have taken to tackle the growing problem of sexual assault. The provisions are contained in a sweeping defense policy bill for the 2014 fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
"Being in a military uniform should not be a get-out-of-jail card," Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, said as the House began work on more than 170 amendments to the defense bill.
Lawmakers hope to complete the measure today but must reconcile it with a Senate version.
Congress is determined to shake up the military's culture and give victims of sexual assault the confidence that if they report a crime their allegations won't be dismissed and they won't face retaliation.
Last week, the House Armed Services Committee approved provisions in the defense bill that included stripping military commanders of the power to overturn convictions in rape and sexual assault cases.
It also voted to require that anyone found guilty of a sex-related crime be dismissed from military service.