As shown in this record of votes, after a lively floor debate (that you can watch here, beginning at 2:06:30), the Senate failed to invoke cloture on Senator Gillibrand’s “Military Justice Improvement Act” (S. 1752) (link to Thomas). However, the Senate unanimously voted to end debate on Senator McCaskill’s “Victims Protection Act” (S. 1917) (link to Thomas), and it scheduled a vote on the bill for 5:30 p.m. on Monday, March 10.
The bill’s current text does not make any changes to the UCMJ. Unfortunately, it does seek to eliminate the general defense of good military character:
(g) Modification of Military Rules of Evidence Relating to Admissibility of General Military Character Toward Probability of Innocence- Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, Rule 404(a) of the Military Rules of Evidence shall be modified to clarify that the general military character of an accused is not admissible for the purpose of showing the probability of innocence of the accused, except that evidence of a trait of the military character of an accused may be offered in evidence by the accused when that trait is relevant to an element of an offense for which the accused has been charged.
I’ve written about this proposal before (in this post), and if it becomes law I’ll write about it again. But for now I’ll just note that one criticism of the defense of good military character – that it “advances the perception that one of the privileges of high rank and long service is immunity from conviction at court-martial” (Elizabeth Hillman, The “Good Soldier” Defense: Character Evidence and Military Rank at Courts-Martial, 108 Yale L.J. 879 1998-1999 (available here)) – isn’t actually addressed by the elimination of the ability to present evidence of general good character. Quite the opposite actually, as the high-ranking accused can just sit at the defense table wearing his good military character on his chest. It’s the junior accused who needs to present evidence of his character to convince the finder of fact that it is “unlikely that he would be guilty of the particular crime with which he is charged.” Edgington v. United States, 164 U.S. 361, 363 (1896) (link).