The House Armed Service Committee voted late Wednesday for an amendment that would make women register for the military draft.
The bipartisan proposal received a vote of 35-24 and was spearheaded by Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Chrissy Houlahan and Florida Republican Rep. Mike Waltz.
The term ‘male citizen’ would be struck from the current law and replaced with the non-gendered ‘citizen.’
The House Armed Service Committee voted late Wednesday for an amendment that would make women register for the military draft
As the law currently stands, males ages 18 through 25 have to register for the Pentagon’s Selective Service System or face legal penalties.
Houlahan, an Air Force veteran, argued during a markup session for the enormous National Defense Authorization Act, that including women would ‘modernize’ the military’s Selective Service System.
‘This policy isn’t rushed or unnecessary,’ she said. ‘For decades our citizens, both women and men, have been trying to make this change. It’s past time.’
She said it was a ‘disservice’ that women weren’t included and said the Selective Service law, as written, is ‘uncontitutional and discriminates based on sex.’
‘This amendment clarifies that the purpose of selective service is bigger than just drafting combat replacements,’ she argued. ‘It ensures that the selective service system is able to provide the DOD with all of the sufficient numbers of personnel, with all of the skills necessary, in the event of a national mobilization, which means cyber, STEM, technical talents and others.’
The Senate passed a similar amendment in its defense bill earlier this summer.
‘It is time we here in the Congress step up and do the same,’ Houlahan urged. ‘By reforming the selective service to be gender neutral-based registration, we draw on the talents of our entire nation in the time of a national emergency.’
Waltz, the first Green Beret to serve in Congress, asked his colleagues to envision the United States being hit by ‘COVID on steroids or a massive cyber attack.’
The amendment was sponsored by Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, an Air Force veteran, who argued it would ‘modernize’ the Pentagon’s Selective Service System
He said in this event, ‘We need everybody.’
‘We need man, woman, gay, straight, any religion, black, white brown,’ Waltz argued.
Five Republicans joined 30 Democrats in voting for the provision.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri wasn’t one of them.
‘This current system does not fence off anyone,’ she said, pointing out that women were free to serve.
‘But it seems like that this is an amendment – it’s a solution in search of a problem,’ she offered. ‘There isn’t a need right now.’
Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, said she was in favor of the move, though mentioned there are some who don’t believe the nation still needs a Selective Service System.
The last time the draft was implemented was during the Vietnam War.
‘It’s time for us to recognize that fair is fair and we all have an obligation to serve our country in time of need,’ Speier said.
The amendment will have to survive a conference committee – when differences between the House and Senate version of the defense bill are worked out – and then votes in the full House and Senate before it makes its way to President Joe Biden’s desk.
In April, the Biden administration asked the Supreme Court not to take on a case that questioned whether the all-male draft was constitutional, arguing Congress should answer the question instead.
In June, the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the all-male Selective Service registration, saying Congress should get more time to settle the matter.