It's been more than 48 years since the last soldier to be drafted in the US entered the Army—but the draft is still on the books, and lawmakers have taken another step closer to expanding it to women. The House Armed Services Committee voted 35-24 Wednesday night to include an amendment from Democratic Rep. Chrissy Houlahan to expand registration to women, Politico reports. Under the current system, only men ages 18 to 25 are required to register with Selective Service.
- "Past time." Houlahan, who served in the Air Force, said it was "past time" for the change. "The current male-only registration sends a message to women not only that they are not vital to the defense of the country, but also that they are not expected to participate in defending it," she said. Four Republicans, including Rep. Liz Cheney, voted with Democrats on the amendment.
- "We need all hands on deck." GOP Rep. Mike Waltz, an Army veteran, also voted for the amendment to the House draft of the annual defense policy bill. "Whatever the emergency is, if it’s so great that we have to go to a draft, we need everybody,” Waltz said, per the Air Force Times. "We need men, women, gay, straight, any religion, black, white, brown. We need all hands on deck." The Senate Armed Services Committee included a similar provision in its version of the bill.
- We've been here before. In 2016, the year after the Pentagon opened all combat roles to women, the Senate passed a bill requiring women to register, which was supported by Sen. John McCain. The House Armed Services Committee also sought to include the measure, but the final draft passed by both chambers instead created a commission to look at the issue. Last year, the commission recommended requiring women to register for Selective Service, calling it a "necessary and fair step," the Hill reports.
- Opposition. Conservatives in both the House and Senate have expressed opposition to the change, though the Senate committee's measure also passed with a bipartisan vote. "We don't need to draft women in order for women to have equality in this nation," GOP Rep. Vicky Hartzler said Wednesday.
(In June, the Supreme Court declined to take up a case
on whether the current system is discriminatory, saying it won't get involved while Congress is looking at the issue.)