Defense bill would require women to register for draft

Defense bill would require women to register for draft
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Women would have to register for the draft under an amendment added to an annual defense bill Wednesday.

“If we want equality in this country, if we want women to be treated precisely like men are treated and that they should not be discriminated against, then we should support a universal conscription,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said. 

The House Armed Services Committee voted 32-30 to include the amendment in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

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Congress has been debating what to do about the draft since Defense Secretary Ash Carter opened up all combat jobs to women late last year.

In 1981, the Supreme Court ruled that women did not have to register for the draft because combat jobs were closed to them.

With that reason now moot, some lawmakers have argued women should now register. Others want women to remain exempt, while still others say this is the opportune time to abolish the draft altogether.

As originally drafted, the NDAA would have asked the Pentagon to conduct a study on the matter and would not have taken a position.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the committee, said he believes Congress needs answers on the benefits of and alternatives to the current draft system before making a decision.

But Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who is opposed to women in combat and in the draft, offered the amendment to force discussion on the issue. He introduced a standalone bill earlier this year for the same reason.

“The draft is there to get more people to rip the enemy’s throats out,” said Hunter, who voted against his own amendment. “I don’t want to see my daughters put in a place where they have to get drafted.”

Both “coffeehouse liberals in San Francisco” and “conservative families who pray three times a day” oppose including women in the draft, he added.

Speier took issue with the idea that liberals don’t support women registering for the draft.

“While you could be offering this as a gotcha amendment, I would suggest that there’s great merit in recognizing that each of us have an obligation to be willing to serve our country in time of war,” she said.

Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) added that if women were drafted, they wouldn’t be forced into jobs that they aren’t equipped to do.

“What we have right now is standards-based,” he said. “The fact of the matter is, if we need hundreds of thousands of folks to serve, that hasn’t changed any reality of if it’s going to be standards-based of who’s going to be in the infantry and who might be supporting.”

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), who introduced a bill in the House to abolish the draft, continued to support that position, saying many Americans of draft age are ineligible for service and that families of influence tend to be able to avoid the draft in wartime.

“If we look at Iraq and Afghanistan, in the height of the conflicts, there was never a discussion in the Department of Defense to resort to conscription,” he said. “I think the selective service is unnecessary.”