Sunday, 13 February 2011

Bill introduced to limit draft registration to "national emergencies"

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) has introduced a bill to restrict draft registration, funding or operation of the Selective Service System, and denial of government benefits ot nonregistrants for the draft (pursuant to the Solomon Amendments) to times when the President has declared a national emergency.

According to his official biography, Rep. Coffman enlisted in the Army in 1972, and later served in various active-duty and reserve capacities in the Army and Marines, including in combat as a Marine infantry officer in the first U.S.-Iraq war in 1990-1991, and in the second U.S. war in Iraq in 2005-2006. He was elected to Congress in 2009 in a special election to fill a vacancy in the 6th District of Colorado, and reelected in 2010. He is a member of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus.

Rep. Coffman's press release says that his bill, H.R. 621, would "abolish the United States Selective Service System and end the requirement for young men to register for the draft."

But that's not quite what the bill would do -- it would leave the President the option to continue or restore the status quo with respect to draft registration with the stroke of a pen, without any need to consult or get approval from Congress.

H.R. 621 would (1) "deactivate" and defund the Selective Service System, (2) suspend the requirement for anyone to register with the Selective Service System, (3) prohibit the Selective Service System from actually registering anyone, and (4) prohibit anyone from being denied any "right, privilege, benefit, or employment position under Federal law on the grounds that the person failed to present himself for and submit to registration", except during any period of time when the President has declared a national emergency.

The main effect of this bill, if approved by Congress, would be to force President Obama to take a more explicit position on the draft and draft registration. To date, the Obama Administration has maintained funding for the Selective Service System in its budget requests, but has made no other public comment on the issue.

H.R. 621 contains neither any explicit amnesty from prosecution for those who haven't registered nor any pardon for those like me who were convicted of refusal to present ourselves for and submit to registration. As I read the bill, it's unclear whether, if enacted into law, it would preclude criminal prosecutions of those who were required to register, and knowingly and willfully failed or refused to do so, before its effective date.

[Update: An entirely separate amendment that would have terminated funding for the Selective Service System, sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), was defeated on House floor on 16 February 2011 by a vote of 301 to 103. Army Times noted that, "the topic could be addressed again when the House takes up the 2012 federal budget.... The House of Representatives voted in 1993 and 1999 to terminate draft registration, but the Senate never agreed, leaving the agency running." Rep. Coffman's bill is unaffected by this vote on funding.]

[Op-Ed by Rep. Mike Coffman in the Denver Post, 28 February 2011: Selective Service System has run its course.]

[Update, 4 May 2011: Army Times reports that Rep. Coffman has withdrawn his plan to offer a separate amendment to the 2012 defense authorization bill to defund the Selective Service System. "Coffman ...said he continues to believe the agency should be shut down, but it is going to take a little longer than he thought. 'I still believe we are wasting money on the Selective Service, but shutting it down isn't going to be quick or easy,' Coffman said."]

Link | Posted by Edward on Sunday, 13 February 2011, 20:36 ( 8:36 PM) | TrackBack (0)
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