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Congress Alert

The 'Draft Women' Legislation Roller Coaster Ride


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During consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in the spring, the proposal that women be required to sign up with Selective Service just as are men started on a roller coaster ride in the United States Congress. That ride had a couple more turns this week. On Tuesday, a United States Senate and House of Representatives conference committee, which was creating a compromise version of the NDAA because the two bodies had passed differing bills, released a final bill that leaves out such a requirement. Then, on Thursday, the Obama administration announced support for requiring women to register with Selective Service.

If women are mandated to register with Selective Service, then the expectation would be that women are in the pool of people for drafting into the military if conscription is reintroduced in America. Thus, such a mandate in the NDAA or other legislation may be viewed as a women draft provision.

In the spring, a women draft provision was added to the House version of the NDAA in a peculiar way. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) proposed the requirement during House Armed Services Committee consideration of the bill. Hunter said he did so to start a debate regarding the ongoing expansion of women’s involvement in US military combat, which he opposes. But, then, the committee voted on April 27 to approve the requirement, with Hunter voting against his own proposal.

On May 16, before the House Armed Services Committee-passed NDAA was moved to the House floor for debate and a vote of all House members, the House Rules Committee removed the provision from the bill. The altered bill was then considered by the full House, which approved an NDAA with no women draft provision included.

But, given that Congress is made up of two bodies, there was still a chance for a women draft provision to make it into the NDAA that Congress would send to President Barack Obama. Indeed, the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 12, as had its House counterpart before it, included in its version of the NDAA a requirement that women register with Selective Service. Ultimately, the full Senate passed an NDAA that includes a women draft provision.

The roller coaster ride seems to be reaching its end — for now. It appears that the House and Senate will pass an NDAA that includes no requirement that women register with Selective Service and that Obama will sign that legislation into law. But, the significant support for such a provision indicated by votes in the House and Senate suggests a strong effort will continue in Washington, DC to mandate women register with Selective Service.


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