A broad cross-section of the U.S. Senate renewed its push Wednesday to dramatically overhaul how the Defense Department handles allegations of sexual assault even as the proposal's lead sponsor admitted she is still well short of garnering the votes needed to pass the measure.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) forcefully defended her plan to remove decisions on whether to prosecute cases of sexual assault, rape and similar crimes from the military chain of command by establishing an independent team of military prosecutors to review the cases. The proposal is expected to be introduced as an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill whenever debate on the omnibus measure begins in the next two weeks.

Flanked by seven of her colleagues from both parties at a news conference on Capitol Hill, Gillibrand said there has been "zero accountability" in the ranks for dealing with allegations of assault and rape, despite two decades of assurances by military leaders that there is "zero tolerance" for such crimes.