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Women Required To Register For Draft In Senate’s Defense Bill

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Women will be required to register for the draft soon, if an amendment in the Senate’s defense policy bill stands.

An amendment to the Senate’s 2017 National Defense Authorization Act requires women who turn 18 on or after Jan. 1, 2018 to register for the selective service, Politico reports.

The debate over requiring women to sign up for the draft has not been as heated as anyone expected. Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, “every single leader in this country, both men and women, members of the military leadership, believe that it’s fair since we opened up all aspects of the military to women that they would also be registering for Selective Services.”

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who voted against the bill because of the provision, voiced the strongest opposition. “The idea that we should forcibly conscript young girls into combat, to my mind, makes little or no sense,” Cruz said. “It is at a minimum a radical proposition. I could not vote for a bill that did so, particularly that did so without public debate.”

According to Republican Rep. Ben Sasse, one of six Republicans who voted against the bill, Congress is using the amendment to fight a “culture war.” On Friday, Sasse introduced an amendment that would require the Department of Defense to justify the need for a draft or get rid of it all together in three years.

In a statement, Sasse said, “why is it that we’re now fighting about drafting our daughters, our sisters, and our mothers when nobody has told us that we need to draft anyone?” Sasse’s amendment to the NDAA did not receive a vote before the cloture motion Monday.

The existence of the draft provision in the bill was something of an accident. Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter proposed the amendment, then voted against it. He hoped to make a point about women serving in the military, expecting the pro-family caucus to rally behind him.

As the bill heads for reconciliation between the two chambers, we may see the debate Hunter wanted. Senate’s provision requiring women to register for the draft differs substantially from the House version. The House Rules Committee struck down the measure in May, referring the question of requiring women to register for the draft to the Department of Defense for further study.

The House of Representatives is scheduled to look at the Senate’s draft of the legislation Wednesday, then reconcile it with their own version, which passed May 18. The White House issued a policy statement recently saying President Barack Obama would veto the bill in its current version.

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