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Women's draft bid gains in Senate, stalls in House

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he supports requiring women to register for the military draft — a surprise announcement that breaks with House GOP leaders who’ve made clear they want to avoid an election-year vote on the politically sensitive issue.


McConnell’s support makes it increasingly likely the Senate will vote soon to open the draft to women as part of a larger defense policy bill — despite opposition from conservatives like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who has said he “cannot in good conscience vote to draft our daughters into the military.”


The House, though, will not follow suit. This means the ultimate decision could come in House-Senate conference negotiations later this year to craft a final version of the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual measure that sets defense policy.


“Given where we are today with women in the military performing all kinds of functions, I personally think it would be appropriate for them to register just like men do,” McConnell told reporters. “We’re talking here about registration for the Selective Service should we ever go back to the draft.”


The Kentucky Republican’s announcement is a stunning move that goes beyond the ambitions of even a president who came into office determined to put a progressive stamp on the Pentagon.


Over the past seven years, President Barack Obama has pressed to allow gays to serve openly, end a ban on transgender troops and open all combat jobs to women. But he never asked for women to be required to register for the draft.


How a GOP-controlled Congress ended up giving serious consideration to this issue is an improbable story that began last month with an amendment put forward sarcastically by a lawmaker opposed to drafting women.


Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Marine combat veteran who’s criticized the administration’s decision to open combat jobs to women, proposed what one Democratic lawmaker labeled a “gotcha” amendment during the House Armed Services Committee’s markup of this year’s NDAA.


The California congressman, who voted against his own amendment, appears to have been trying to show there was little support among lawmakers for including women in the draft. But his move had the opposite effect: The amendment passed, 32-30, picking up the support of six Republicans.


Hunter, who insists his only goal was to start a debate, became the butt of jokes on late-night talk shows. But for House Republican leaders, the movement Hunter never intended to start was no laughing matter. On Monday, House leaders scrambled behind the scenes to block Hunter’s provision as it became increasingly clear it had a realistic shot of surviving planned floor votes to repeal it.


House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions used a rare procedural maneuver Monday night to strip Hunter’s provision from the underlying bill without a standalone vote. The Texas Republican said in a statement his move “ensures a reckless policy is not put forward without the proper information and oversight to make an informed decision."


But House leaders were powerless to stop the Senate from moving on its own to advance a provision to open the draft to women. In another surprise move, Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain came out in support of requiring women to register for the draft, including a provision to do so in the Senate version of the defense policy bill.


And the Arizona Republican made clear Tuesday he expects the full Senate will vote on the issue. “I’m sure there will be an amendment and a vote,” McCain told reporters.

In an earlier statement, the former naval aviator, who has long been an influential voice on military policy issues, said he supports “the recommendation of the Army chief of staff and the commandant of the Marine Corps that women should register for Selective Service.”


Source: POLITICO.

https://www.politico.com/story/2016/05/women-military-draft-223288

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