In a close 217-203 vote that split almost entirely along party lines, the House of Representatives voted yesterday to block the Selective Service Systems from requiring women to register for the military draft, a move intended to end months of debate.
The House had previously removed a provision requiring draft registration from the 2017 military spending bill, but hadn’t replaced it with any language precluding such a move. The Senate left the language in that bill, setting up a potential reconciliation problem. The House sought to preclude that by explicitly forbidding such a move, even if the appropriation survives.
Democrats have argued that the expansion of the draft to women is necessary in the name of “equality,” while Republicans have opposed the plan overwhelmingly. A bipartisan effort to split the difference by getting rid of draft registration entirely failed, however, with hawks arguing that the $23 million savings wouldn’t be worth it.
Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R – FL), argued that $23 million a year is a “small price to pay” to retain the power to quickly conscript a broad swathe of the population into military service against their will. He was also one of a handful of Republicans who supported extending the draft to women.
In practice, the US hasn’t drafted anyone since 1973, and in 1975 President Ford ended the registration requirement. In 1980, however, in a move to antagonize Russia after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter brought the plan back, and even though Russia has been out of Afghanistan for a generation, and the US has been occupying Afghanistan itself for about 15 years, the system has remained intact throughout.