Friday, 13 May 2016
Senate & House "Defense" bills would extend draft registration to women
[Lesbian Anti-Draft Action contingent in the West Coast mobilization against draft registration, 22 March 1980, followed by a group with the banner of the Oakland Feminist Women's Health Center. Photo by Chris Booth for Resistance News. Click image for larger version. Straight feminists and many other women were also among the 20,000+ marchers in San Francisco and a similar number that same day in Washington, DC.]
Yesterday the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee joined its counterpart committee of the House of Representatives in adding a provision to the pending "National Defense Authorization Act" (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017 that would extend the authority of the President to order women as well as men to register for the draft.
Because this is considered a "must-pass" bill, this provision will now become law along with the rest of the bill unless the proposal is amended on the floor of either the House or the Senate (or both) to remove it before the full bill is approved, or unless the President vetoes the entire bill (which is unlikely).
It's time for lobbying against draft registration -- and for organizing and resistance.
[Leaflet: What's happening and what can we do? (printable PDF (one sheet, two-sided); editable Open Office format)]
I presume, although I don't know for sure, that the text of the provision added to the Senate committee version of the bill is the same as that which was added to the House version. The Senate committee decision was made during a closed "markup" session, and I don't know if the record of how each committee member voted on this provision is or will be made public.
To understand what will happen next, you have to get down in the weeds of Congressional procedure, and understand the dynamic surrounding Congressional debate and voting on this question.
The versions of the FY 2017 NDAA bill approved by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees will go to the "floor" of the respective chambers, where proposed amendments can be voted on before the final votes on the bills.
Rep. Pete Sessions, a Republican from Dallas and one of the few members of Congress to have endorsed Donald Trump for President, has introduced an amendment to the House bill to strike out the provision expanding draft registration to women. It's up to the House Rules Committee to decide which of the many proposed amendments to the bill on this and other subjects are allowed to be voted on by the full House. But since Rep. Sessions is the Chair of the House Rules Committee, it's likely that he will be able to get the Rules Committee to agree to schedule a vote on his amendment on women and draft registration when the 2017 NDAA comes to the House floor.
Rep. Jared Polis, who is also a member of the Rules Committee, is one of the sponsors of H.R. 4523, the bill to end draft registration entirely and abolish the Selective Service System. But H.R. 4523 has yet to be scheduled for consideration in committee, and may never be. Most bills introduced in Congress are never debated or voted on, even in committee.
Floor debate and voting on the 2017 NDAA has not yet been scheduled, but could be as soon as next week in the House, and could be later this month in the Senate. It's time to talk to your Representative today! Tell them to vote YES on "the Sessions' amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act on women and draft registration," and to support H.R. 4523 to end draft registration.
So far as I know, no Senator has introduced a similar amendment to strike the provision to register women for the draft out of the Senate version of the 2017 NDAA. Nor has any Senator introduced a bill like H.R. 4523. Last night after the Senate committee vote, one conservative commentator wrote that, "I am ... told by Senate staff that it is unlikely an amendment to strike this provision will even succeed on the floor of the Senate, which means a majority of that body now supports drafting women. The only hope to stop this is on the House floor."
But "lobbying" alone will not stop the proposal to expand draft registration to women, or end draft registration for men.
Members of Congress expect that any draft, for anyone, or any move toward a draft, will be unpopular. That won't keep them from voting for it.
Members of Congress, the Pentagon, and the President all say -- probably truthfully -- that they don't "want" a draft.
They will vote for draft registration, and they will expand draft registration to women if that's what it takes to make it Constitiutional [sic], because they want to preserve the "option" of the draft as an "insurance policy". Plan B, or perhaps Plan C or plan D, if they run out of "volunteers", reserve forces, National Guard members, and mercenaries ("civilian contractors") to fight their wars.
They will stop short of trying to make women register for the draft if, and only if, they are brought to the realization that draft registration of women will fail, just as draft registration of men has failed, because young women will resist just as young men have resisted.
Resistance, as the Selective Service System has finally admitted, has made draft registration unenforceable. Continued and expanded resistance can stop the attempt to make young women register too, and it can end draft registration.
The most important voices to be raised, listened to, and heard in Congress in the crucial days ahead are those of young women saying that they will not willingly submit or sign up, and those of older people and men like me and many others saying that we will support and stand with them in resistance.
Posted by Edward on Friday, 13 May 2016, 11:11 (11:11 AM)
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"Left divided over women registering for the draft" (by Rebecca Kheel, The Hill, 14 May 2016):
Both the House and Senate versions of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would require women to register for the draft. But three amendments have been put forward in the House to strike that language. The bill is expected to come to the floor next week....
A Care2 petition with nearly 14,000 signatures urges lawmakers to end the draft instead of requiring women to participate.
"While this is unfair and sexist — women should be allowed to serve in combat roles just as men are — it is immoral to force people to go to war, no matter their sex," Julie Mastrine, the petition's author..., says in the petition document.
But Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said this week that registering women is a matter of equality.
"Women ought to be treated equally,” he told reporters. “If you're going to have Selective Service registration continue, and you're going to have women available to serve in the armed forces in either front-line capacity or support capacity — or both, which I think is now the case legally — then I think it makes sense to have eligible individuals, male or female, register as long as you have registration.”
Hoyer also argued against abolishing the Selective Service altogether.
“Internationally, we are in a very unstable context,” he said. “Therefore, it may well make sense to continue to have a pool available, a large pool available, in the event that we need to, in very rapid order, ramp up the numbers of folks in the armed forces."
"Week ahead: Defense bill hits House floor" (by Rebecca Kheel, The Hill, 16 May 2016):
""The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act will go to the House Rules Committee on Monday and likely come to the floor Tuesday.... Amendments have already been filed on issues ranging from registering women for the draft to allowing the enlistment of immigrants in the country illegally to passing an authorization for the use of military force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In total, 365 amendments have been filed for the bill, but many are sure to get blocked in the Rules Committee and never
make it to the floor."
"Drive to Draft Women Going Nowhere Right Now: Major social policy shift unlikely in election year" (by David Hawkings, Roll Call, 16 May 2016):
"The first test arrives this week, when the House will vote on whether to delete the women-must-register provision from their defense measure. The debate looks to be contentious and the outcome close....
Cultural conservatives are promising a Senate floor fight no matter what the outcome in the House....
As a general rule it's tougher to get bill language removed with a floor amendment than it is to get a provision included.
Still, if one chamber votes against registering women, and the other sticks with it, the final resolution will be left for negotiations in the
fall. (The defense authorization bill has defied the Hill’s penchant for gridlock and has been enacted without fail for 55 consecutive years.)
Past practice suggests that heated deliberations over changing Selective Service may be suspended in order to reserve time and energy for the
horse-trading on more immediately pressing defense policy disputes -- starting with an $18 billion disagreement about the overall amount to be spent, and which weapons and personnel should get rewarded or short-changed in the process.
In addition, the Armed Services panels have a long record of getting drawn into emotional conflicts on hot-button topics -- only to find a
temporarily calming way out with half-measures, independent studies or outright delay."
"House chairman wants to prevent women from entering the draft" (by Karoun Demirjian, Washington Post, 16 May 2016):
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee this week will try to strip language from legislation he oversees that would require women to register for the draft...
Thornberry’s amendment is one of a handful that have been filed to remove or otherwise change the provision dealing with the Selective Service. An amendment from Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) would strike Hunter’s amendment, while a measure from Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wisc.) would dispense with the Selective Service entirely. A measure from Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) would eliminate the federal penalties for failing to register.
"GOP blocks provision to require women to register for draft" (by Richard Lardner, Associated Press, 17 May 2016):
[T]he Republican-led House Rules Committee pulled a legislative sleight of hand and stripped a provision from the annual defense policy bill that would have required women between the ages of 18 and 25 to sign up for a military draft.
The committee's chairman, Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said in a statement Tuesday the action was taken to prevent what he called a "reckless policy" from moving forward....
The Rules Committee wields substantial influence over legislation before it moves to the House floor....
Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the Armed Services Committee's top Democrat, decried the decision to reverse the vote, calling it "a dead-of-night attempt to take an important issue off the table."
But the debate over whether women should register is far from over. The Senate Armed Services Committee voted last week to include a draft registration requirement for women in its version of the annual defense policy bill....
If the draft requirement makes it through the full Senate, then the issue will have to be settled by a House-Senate conference committee.
Rule adopted by the House Rules Committee (see page 3):
"House drops plans to make women register for draft" (by Leo Shane III, Military Times, 17 May 2016):
Republican members of the House Rules Committee during a late Monday meeting stripped provisions from the annual defense authorization bill that would have required women to register for the Selective Service System.
The controversial provision ... was expected to be a major point of debate on the defense policy bill this week.
But Rules Committee members instead voted to cut off consideration of the issue on the House floor and strike that entire section of the bill. The unusual but not unprecedented procedural move avoids what could be a thorny debate for both parties....
Democrats decried it as cowardice by Republican leaders....
[W]atchdog groups have repeatedly questioned whether the Selective Service System could even adequately conduct a draft if one was needed.
The Senate Armed Services Committee has included provisions making women register for the draft in its initial versions of the authorization bill, meaning the issue will likely come up again before a final compromise bill is settled. But that work will happen behind closed doors, not in public debate before Congress.
"House GOP leaders move to strip language requiring women to register for the draft" (by Karoun Demirjian, Washington Post, 17 May 2016):
House Republican leaders are attempting to strip language from a defense policy bill that would require women to register for the draft and they are employing a maneuver that will prevent members from having to cast and up or down vote on the politically contentious issue....
On Tuesday, the House is set to adopt a rule governing overall debate for the defense authorization bill that would strip the language concerning the draft. This allows GOP leaders to dispense with the issue without having to have a vote directly on whether the policy change should go into effect.
Democrats immediately decried the move....
Of the 60 amendments that the rule for the defense bill will allow to receive votes, Session’s proposal is the only one that is considered approved when the rule is adopted.