Congress on verge of including women over 18 in the military draft: Bill could pass Senate this week

For the first time in the United States’ 245-year history, American women could be required to sign up for the Selective Service with legislation expanding the draft expected to get the green light from Congress, a report out Wednesday stated.  

A measure changing the requirements for the Selective Service from male-only to ‘all Americans’ could pass the Senate as early as this week, according to Axios.  

The question of who should be compelled to serve has been debated in the US for years. Now it looks likely to pass with a bipartisan coalition of support, despite fury from some Republicans saying it is part of a row over political equality. 

Wednesday’s report notes the backers include veterans, feminists and even traditional Republicans – lawmakers ranging from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to Democrat Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth have said it’s time to expand the draft to women.

Opposition has been relatively scant – about a dozen Republican senators have stood against the measure. Lawmakers who oppose the Selective Service in general could also vote against the bill.

Earlier this month, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley introduced an amendment to strip the gender-neutral Selective Service language out of the NDAA. It’s not clear if the bill gained much traction.

Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler spoke out against the measure on Wednesday morning.

‘ Using women as a chess piece in a political “equality” argument is not only misguided but is insulting to our female population,’ she wrote on Twitter. ‘Claiming their inclusion in the draft would prove “equality” is ridiculous.’ 

Conservative groups have also stood against the reform. 

‘There is nothing hindering women’s ability to volunteer and serve in the military, so there is no need for this dangerous and unnecessary draft mandate contained in the NDAA,’ public policy organization the Family Research Council tweeted Tuesday.

Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer told colleagues on Sunday that it'll likely be voted on this week

Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has voiced support for the Selective Service to be expended to women, a measure that’s part of this year’s military spending bill. Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer told colleagues on Sunday that it’ll likely be voted on this week

The provision is included in the latest National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives by a 316 – 113 vote in September.

If passed, all US citizens aged 18 to 26 would be required to sign up regardless of gender identity.  

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York wrote to colleagues in a letter on Sunday, ‘it is likely that the Senate considers the NDAA this upcoming week.’ 

The change would be mostly symbolic – the government hasn’t drafted men for combat since the Vietnam War.  

But should it ever need to be used again, Democratic Rep. Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania warned, an expansion would allow the military to tap into a broad range of necessary experiences.

‘God forbid, if we’re in that place where we need to call on everybody to help us, we will need all kinds of skills,’ Houlahan, an Air Force veteran, told Axios. 

‘Cyber-related skills, as well as other sorts of skills that we don’t necessarily currently think of when we think of the Selective Service.’ 

‘It seems to me given that women are playing every single possible role in the military,’ Maine Senator Susan Collins told Huffpost on Wednesday. ‘The registration should apply to both men and women.’

In July the Senate Armed Services Committee passed the NDAA with just two Republicans – Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Hawley – and Democrat Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts voting against it.

Female servicemembers in Congress have been some of the primary forces driving the recent draft reform push. 

Conservative groups like the Family Research Council oppose the military reform

Conservative groups like the Family Research Council oppose the military reform

GOP Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, the first woman combat veteran elected to the upper chamber, highlighted the importance of all Americans serving their country in Wednesday’s report.

‘We are now competing in the space of combat arms, and I think it’s important that we all serve to the best of our capacity,’ she said.

Her fellow combat veteran Duckworth, who lost both her legs when her helicopter was hit by a grenade in Iraq, is also known to support expanding the draft to women.

New York Democrat Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said ‘so much of the trajectory for women in the armed services is based on what experience they’re able to accrue, particularly combat experience.’  

And McConnell, the most powerful Republican in Congress, threw his weight behind women entering the draft as early as 2016.

He said in May of that year that ‘given where we are today, with women in the military performing virtually all kinds of functions, I personally think it would be appropriate for them to register just like men do.’ 

It’s not clear how he intends to vote on the annual military funding bill that includes the provision. DailyMail.com has reached out to McConnell’s office.  

A half-dozen Republican senators mounted a bid to block it in August. They introduced a resolution titled ‘Don’t Draft Our Daughters.’

The effort was spearheaded by Hawley, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Utah Senator Mike Lee. 

Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, Steve Daines of Montana and Roger Wicker of Mississippi also signed on.  

‘Most Americans say if a woman wants to serve that’s wonderful – and by the way, women have been absolutely central to our war efforts since we have been a country, in many different ways, including of course fighting,’ Hawley said on Fox News earlier this month.

A report commissioned by the federal government in May 2020 proposed expanding the selective service to women

A report commissioned by the federal government in May 2020 proposed expanding the selective service to women

‘But the idea that they be forced into compulsory service, I just think it’s crazy.’ 

Congress has tried in the past to amend the Military Selective Services Act to include women in the draft, but opposition mainly led by Republicans have stopped those efforts.

Under a proposal from Senate Armed Services Chair Jack Reed, the existing legislation’s text would be changed to ‘all Americans’ and remove the male reference.

The latest version of the bill would swap ‘male person’ for the gender-neutral ‘person’ and replaces the phrase ‘race or color’ with ‘race, color, sex, or gender.’ 

But the Republicans’ resolution cited data that states ‘only a small subset of women are able to meet the physical fitness requirements for combat roles’ in their evidence against the measure.

It also points to the disparity between men in women in completing the Army fitness test ever since it became gender-neutral in 2018.

‘United States Army data has demonstrated a fail rate ranging between 65 percent and 84 percent for women and between 10 percent and 30 percent for men on the Army Combat Fitness test since its inception,’ the resolution reads.

Military research also reflects enlisted women having a six-time higher injury rate than men. 

But the argument for enlisting women in the Selective Service comes from a recent study by the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service, published in May 2020.

‘This is a necessary and fair step, making it possible to draw on the talent of a unified Nation in a time of national emergency,’ the commission wrote. 

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