WASHINGTON - The United States Senate cleared the way Thursday for Sen. Claire McCaskill's military sex assault bill.

Sen. McCaskill (D-MO) led the effort to defeat a separate bill authored by New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand. The measure would have removed military commanders from deciding whether most serious allegations of wrongdoing by their subordinates should be prosecuted.

But Sen. McCaskill and others warned that removing commanders from the process could leave victims more vulnerable to retaliation.

"The argument was posed as 'Victims vs. commander: Whose side are you on?' and it's not that simple. If you take the time to really get into the complexities of the military justice system and how these cases are handled, I'm confident that the choice the Senate made today is the right one for victims of sexual assault in the military," said Sen. McCaskill.

The Senate later unanimously voted to clear the way for passage of Senator McCaskill's measure that enables victims to have a say in whether their cases are heard in the military or civil justice system.

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