Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made what appeared to be a politically savvy move Thursday, voting to advance a measure from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to remove the prosecution of serious crime, including sexual assault, from the military chain of command.
McConnell was one of 11 Republicans to vote to break a filibuster of the bill, which had the support of conservative firebrands Rand Paul, also of Kentucky, and Ted Cruz. Though the measure failed to receive the 60 votes necessary to proceed , McConnell's vote could potentially inoculate him from attacks on both his left and right flank.
McConnell, who has the endorsement of Paul, has been careful this Congress especially to vote with the junior senator on as many measures as possible. The veteran Kentucky lawmaker is facing a challenge from conservative Matt Bevin, who likely would have attacked McConnell for breaking with Paul and Cruz.
On his left, McConnell is fending off a challenge from Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who also could have used a "no" vote on the Military Justice Improvement Act against the GOP incumbent. Grimes is a favorite of the national Democratic establishment and the issue would have been a natural fit for her to champion. Seventeen of the Senate's 20 women voted with Gillibrand. Additionally, in September, Grimes received $10,000 from Gillibrand's Off The Sidelines PAC.
The Rothenberg Report/Roll Call rates the Kentucky Senate race as Lean Republican .