Bill Containing Draft Mandate For Women Advances In Senate, Likely To Pass Despite Conservative Opposition
DUJAIL, IRAQ - OCTOBER 18: U.S. Army soldiers salute during a memorial service for Sgt. Robert Tucker at a military base October 18, 2005 in Dujail, Iraq. Tucker, 20, from Cookeville, Tennessee, was killed by insurgents when a roadside bomb blew up his armored vehicle on October 13 near Dujail, just two weeks before the end of his 10-month deployment in Iraq. He was assigned to K-Troop, of the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, which patrols the area around Dujail. Saddam Hussein is scheduled to go on trial on October 19, for the death of 143 people from Dujail who he allegedly ordered killed in 1985 in revenge for an assassination attempt.
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

On Wednesday, the Senate advanced the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), part of which would mandate the military draft for women, moving the legislation to the floor debate stage by a vote of 84-15. 

Debate on the bill might begin on Thursday, and amendments to remove the provision on drafting women for the military might still be made. One of the initial setbacks for bringing the bill to the floor included disagreements between Republicans and Democrats about a provision relating to China that was eventually decided to be determined apart from the NDAA.

The Hill reported, “The agreement to enter formal negotiations on the China bill also freed up the defense bill. Leadership now needs to work through hundreds of amendments to figure out which potential amendments can get a vote.”

Several of the senators who voted against bringing the bill to the floor were Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Rand Paul (R-KY). Some Democrats also voted not to bring the bill to debate, including Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

The provision that would mandate a draft for women was first put into the NDAA by the House in September. The draft has not been used in decades, though men 18-26 still need to register in case it were activated again. 

While many Democrats and some Republicans including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in the senate support requiring women to register for the Selective Service, a number of Republicans are extremely opposed to the idea. 

“It is wrong to force our daughters, mothers, wives, and sisters to fight our wars,” Hawley said earlier this month. “Our country is extremely grateful for the brave women who have volunteered to serve our country with and alongside our fighting forces.” 

He continued: “They have played a vital role in defending America at every point in our nation’s history. But volunteering for military service is not the same as being forced into it, and no woman should be compelled to do so.”

Some of Hawley’s Republican colleagues like Joni Ernst (R-IA) said that since women are now allowed in combat that women should “serve to the best of our capacity” in the military.

Democrat Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) also favored making women eligible for the draft. Some argue, however, that military service for women should be voluntary not compulsory. 

God bless that woman if she wants to go serve in the military and is prepared to fight,” Texas Senator Ted Cruz said, “But I’m the father of two daughters. The idea that the government would forcibly draft them, and put them in a place where they would be engaged in combat against a man who the statistics demonstrate is likely to have significantly more body mass and significantly more body strength? That’s not fair.”

Despite the efforts of those like Hawley and Cruz, the provision mandating women to register for the draft seems almost sure to pass with the NDAA according to Defense One. 

“Attaching it to NDAA basically ensures that it will [pass], barring a massive herculean effort to get it unattached somehow,” said Kara Vuic of Texas Christian University. “I think it’s going to pass.”

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