Requirement for women to register for draft stripped from bill
The House version of an annual defense policy bill would no longer require women to register for the draft.
The language requiring women to register was officially stripped out of National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Tuesday afternoon as part of a procedural vote, after the House Rules Committee moved to do so on Monday night. Democrats decried the move as a sneaky way to undo the will of the House Armed Services Committee.
“To move forward without any real debate on this issue and to strike that section without meaningful floor debate is bad policy, bad procedure. It’s an offense to committee, which put it into the bill,” said Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who personally opposes the entire draft but said if it exists, it should include women.
The House voted 234-181 to approve the rule for debate of the NDAA. On Monday night, the Rules Committee added to the rule a “considered as adopted” amendment that strikes the language requiring women to register and directs a study of the Selective Service System.
The vote was almost entirely on party lines. Rep. Reid Ribble (Wis.), who had offered an amendment to abolish the draft, was the only Republican to vote against the rule.
That means the language was struck without a separate debate and vote on just the amendment, which was offered by House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas).
The issue of women registering for the draft has divided members of both parties since Defense Secretary Ash Carter opened all combat jobs to women and rendered the Supreme Court’s argument against registering women moot.
The language was added to NDAA as an amendment in a 32-30 vote in the 7 p.m. hour during the Armed Services Committee’s markup of the bill last month.
Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) argued that more debate on the issue is needed before there’s a change to the draft.
“This is an issue that the Armed Services Committee has not debated,” Byrne said. “No hearings have been held. It was added to the NDAA as amendment in the dead of night.”
One of the provision’s opponents was Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who instead advocated for the study of the draft system.
“There has not been a review of whether we need Selective Service since 1994,” Thornberry told reporters Tuesday morning. “And so my strong view is we need to ask the big questions and figure out whether we need it and if so, for what purpose. What would happen if we did away with it? If we do have it, who’s going to be involved?”
In opposing Tuesday’s rule, Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.) said it prevents the very debate Republicans are asking for.
“This rule precludes Congress from having an open and transparent debate about this very important issue that impacts women’s equality,” she said on the House floor. “If we want a full hearing, is there no better place than on the floor of this House.”
The Senate version of the NDAA would require women to register. If the language survives the Senate floor, that would set up a fight when the House and Senate meet in conference on the bill.
— Updated at 3:40 p.m.
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