WASHINGTON — A bipartisan provision in an annual defense measure that would have required all young Americans to register for the military draft has been cut following a Republican backlash.
Lawmakers tried to include the provision in the $777.9 billion measure, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2022, to require all Americans — including women — ages 18 to 25 to be included for registration with the Selective Service System.
Even though the provision had the backing of members from both parties like Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pennsylvania, and Michael Waltz, R-Florida, as well as Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jack Reed, D-R.I., Republicans moved to strip the measure, arguing that women should not be forced to fight in wars.
The House passed a final negotiated version of the bill, usually viewed as must-pass legislation, 363-70. The measure now goes to the Senate.
Politico first reported the language on the military draft had been dropped from the compromise.
Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri said on Twitter that if the draft language was not removed from the bill he would “continue to insist on a vote on the Senate floor to strike the provision.”
He introduced his own amendment, which struck out the provision.
GOP senators who signed onto the amendment included Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Steve Daines of Montana, Mike Lee of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida, among others.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Missouri, also voiced her objection to the requirement for registration in the NDAA.
“This provision was never about improving military readiness,” she said on Twitter. “Instead, it passed through committee under the misplaced guise of ‘equality,’ imposing a woke ideology on our troops rather than meeting the current needs of our military.”
She later praised the removal of the change to selective service requirements.
“Women are not chess pieces in a political game,” she said. “They are doctors, lawyers, engineers, and already valuable members of our all-volunteer force.”
Under current law, only “male persons” are required to register for selective service, which hasn’t been used since the Vietnam War.
The inclusion of the provision even had the support of the White House.
“The administration supports section 513 and the registration requirement for all citizens, which further ensures a military selective system that is fair and just,” according to the Biden administration, referring to the section of the bill dealing with the requirement.
Ernst, the first female veteran senator, has voiced her support for women to be included in the selective service.
“Senator Ernst – the first female combat veteran elected to the Senate and mom to a daughter at West Point – supports more women joining our armed forces and believes that, although extremely rare, in the event a draft is instituted women bring tremendous talent to our national defense,” her office said in a statement.