With growing complaints from a faction within the Republican leadership, the House Rules Committee has stripped language from the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requiring women to register for the military draft.
With the military opening up combat roles for women, several military leaders have talked up the idea of adding women to the Selective Service registration system in the name of “fairness.” This has since been backed by the vast majority of Democrats and a solid number of Republicans.
Rep. Pete Sessions (R – TX), the head of the Rules Committee, is among the Republicans opposed to the expansion of the draft system, and both he and House Armed Services Committee chair Rep. Mac Thornberry (R – TX) have advocated exploring the possibility of eliminating the registration system entirely.
Selective Service was initially imposed by Congress in 1917, to raise conscripts for World War 1. Two further Selective Service Acts were passed in 1940 (ahead of WW2) and 1948, ahead of the Korean War. The 1948 law remains in place, albeit amended during the Vietnam War and terminated by President Ford in 1975.
Selective Service was restored by President Carter in 1980 as a move to “warn” the Soviet Union over the invasion of Afghanistan, and even though the Soviet Union and their occupation of Afghanistan are both long gone, has remained in place ever since. The Pentagon has expressed support for the registration system, but has repeatedly opposed the idea of drafting anybody, arguing they prefer a volunteer army.
The elimination of the language from the NDAA doesn’t end the effort, however, as the Draft Our Daughters Act of 2016 is still being pushed in both the House and Senate, with the Senate seen as more likely to support it.