President Nancy Pelosi said in a statement that she met with the Guillen family on Wednesday morning and pledged to bring the bill to a vote on the floor of the House. The time for the vote would be “either in the next few weeks or in November,” according to the bill’s main sponsor, the Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier from California.
“I’m the Vanessa Guillen Act” would make sexual harassment a crime within the Uniform Code of Military Justice and move prosecution decisions on sexual assault and harassment cases out of the military command chain, according to the bill’s sponsors.
In the military justice system, the commanding officers review the results of the criminal investigation and decide whether to convene a court-martial to prosecute the charges.
The bill already has 73 co-sponsors ̵
“This piece of legislation will transform a tragedy into change,” Speier said Wednesday during a news conference on Capitol Hill with the law’s other backers and Guillen’s parents and sisters in attendance.
The bill would also require an independent prosecutor’s decision on whether a case is moving forward and allowing victims to file claims to the defense for compensation, Speier said. The bill will also launch an external review by the U.S. Government Office of Responsibility of the military’s sexual harassment response program and its protocols for missing persons.
“In her death, she will serve her brothers and sisters in arms for many years to come and protect the other men and women who may not have had a voice in advance and who now have a place to go,” the Republican rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma said during Wednesday’s press conference.
The main suspect in her disappearance, another Fort Hood soldier, Spc. Aaron Robinson, killed himself in July when he was confronted by police in Killeen, Texas.
Khawam said the family told her Guillen had planned to file a harassment against Robinson the day after she was killed.
“The Army and Ft. Hood failed her. But in her name, we are making the comprehensive changes necessary to prevent this from ever happening again,” Democratic Representative Sylvia Garcia of Texas, Guillens’ representative in Congress, said Wednesday. “‘I am the Vanessa Guillen Act of 2020’ is a transformative legislation that will save lives and help protect our women and men in this armed service.”
Garcia added: “Although we can never bring Vanessa back, today we honor her memory.”
Mullin suggested that President Donald Trump, although he has not seen the text of the law, would support the legislation and “is committed to helping Vanessa’s family.”
Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono also plans to introduce accompanying legislation in the Republican-led U.S. Senate.
“You have our promise that we will make sure that Vanessa’s life is not lost in vain. That you can proudly recall that her presence will be on every military base as it is transformed into an institution that protects its service members , “Speier said, addressing the Guillen family directly.
Speier said she will attend a congressional delegation to Fort Hood on Thursday, where they plan to talk to enlisted soldiers, military police and police in Killeen and visit “the crime scene and the location of the remains of Vanessa Guillen.”
This story has been updated with further development on Wednesday.
CNN’s Amir Vera and Lori Daniel contributed to this report.