Tuesday, 17 May 2016

House removes authorization to order women to register for the draft from its version of pending "Defense" bill

Women marching with banner: Lesbian Anti-Draft Action

[Front ranks of the West Coast mobilization against any draft or draft registration for women or men on Market Street in San Francisco, 22 March 1980, Photo by Chris Booth for Resistance News. Click image for larger version.]

The U.S. House of Representatives voted today to remove (see page 3) a provision that would extend Presidential authority to order women as well as men to register for the draft from the House version of the pending National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017.

This doesn’t mean that the threat to extend draft registration to women is over, but it does mean that Congress has probably succeeded in punting its decision of whether to extend draft registration to women or end draft registration entirely past the November election and into the next Presidential administration.

More resistance is needed now, and will be needed in the next year or more, to put an end to draft registration.

Here’s what happened today, and what it means:

The substantive decision to remove the provision on women and draft registration from the version of the bill to be voted on by the full House later this week was included in a procedural resolution establishing rules for debate on the bill. Military Times described this as “an unusual but not unprecedented parliamentary move.”

Although there was a recorded vote to approve the resolution, it was a vote on the resolution as a whole, which disposed of many other unrelated issues. So Representatives didn’t have to reveal how they would have voted on this issue alone, and have dodged the bullet of having to take a public position on draft registration which they might have to defend to voters in the November elections.

For what it’s worth, the vote was almost purely partisan, with Republicans voting 234-1 in favor of the resolution (and against requiring women to register for the draft), and Democrats voting 180-0 against it (and in favor of requiring women to register for the draft as long as men are required to register). Even the Republican (Coffman) and Democratic (Polis) original co-sponsors of the bill to end registration entirely on partisan lines in today’s vote on women and draft registration.

An identical provision authorizing draft registration of women remains in the Senate version of the “Defense” bill, and seems likely to be approved. Assuming that both houses of Congress approve their respective non-identical versions of the bill, a joint “conference committee” will be appointed to negotiate a compromise.

There are many other differences between the House and Senate bills, conference committee negotiations are conducted in secret, and the compromise negotiated by the conference committee is voted up or down by each chamber as a whole, without amendment. Most Congressional observers seem to expect that the Senate provision on women and draft registration will be quietly dropped from the compromise version behind the closed doors of the conference committee, and that decision approved as part of the overall compromise without a separate vote.

But opponents of the draft and draft registration aren’t out of the woods yet.

The reason this issue reached the House floor today, for the first time since 1994, is that the decision of the Pentagon and the President to allow women in all combat “occupational specialties” within the military undercuts the basis for the Supreme Court’s decision in 1981 that it was Constitutional to require young men but not young women to register for the draft. New lawsuits challenging male-only draft registration as unconstitutionally discriminatory are already working their way through the courts, and are likely to lead to a ruling invalidating the current male-only registration requirement.

If Congress does nothing, registration is likely to be ended by court order, leaving an awkward and prolonged mess of follow-up litigation about the continued applicability of administrative sanctions against those who previously hadn’t registered. To avoid that embarrassment and its complications, Congress will have to act, before a final court decision, either to extend draft registration to women or to end it for men. “All of us or none of us!” Today’s vote in the House of Representatives does nothing to resolve that dilemma.

The most advanced of these lawsuits has recently been remanded to the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, where a court order setting the schedule for further written briefing or the next status hearing is expected shortly. Assuming that the government appeals any decision that the current registration scheme is unconstitutional, a final decision could take a year or two, perhaps three if the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, which it might. But the government is likely to have to deal with this issue sometime in the next Presidential administration.

Thn issue then will no longer be whether to register men only or register both men and women. Sooner or later, sometime in the next few years, Congress will have to decide whether to require both men and women to register, or neither women nor men.

What can we do in the meantime to influence that decision?

H.R. 4523, a bipartisan bill to do the right thing — end draft registration, abolish the Selective Service System, and repeal all Federal administrative penalties for failure to register for the draft — remains pending in the House. It may not get out of committee this year, but it needs as a strong a showing of support as possible to help the chances for a similar bill in the next Congress.

If you sign either or both of the petitions in support of H.R. 4523 initiated independently by Julie Mastrine and David Swanson, you can get on their respective mailing lists for updates, especially if this bill moves forward or when a similar bill is introduced in the next Congress. (If you know people who you think should be on my mailing list for updates specifically about draft registration and the draft, let me know or have them contact me directly.)

Any realistic debate about whether to continue draft registration or extend it to women needs to include consideration of whether it can be enforced, and what it would take and how much it would cost to try to enforce it.

Any budget for expanding draft registration to women should include an estimate of the cost of trying to round up those young women who don’t register voluntarily, and the cost of investigating, prosecuting, and imprisoning those who publicly defy the law and can;t be ignored without complete loss of credibility for the government’s threats (as happened with men). The hearings held in 1980 and 1982 by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Civil Liberties, and the Administration of Justice on Selective Service Prosecutions and Judiciary Implications of Draft Registration (see pp. 130-131 for the founding Call for Resistance by the National Resistance Committee, inserted in the hearing record by one of the witnesses) provide an excellent model for consideration of foreseeable enforcement problems that weren’t heeded then but should be taken more seriously in light of 30+ more years of experience with the government’s inability to enforce the draft registration law.

As I’ve said before, though, lobbying alone will not persuade Congress to end draft registration rather than extending it to women. The decisive factor will be whether we can make the proven failure of draft registration of men, and the inevitability that registration of women will also fail, part of the terms of public and Congressional debate.

Resistance to draft registration by young women — massive, if mostly quiet, resistance — is inevitable. It will make draft registration of women unenforceable and useless for a fair or inclusive draft, just as it has done for men, but in its own feminist ways.

But neither Congress nor the public will believe in the inevitability of widespread resistance by young women, however, if they don’t see or hear from at least some young women saying themselves — even anonymously — that, “I won’t go” or “We won’t go”. The combination of ageism and sexism makes it especially likely that young women will be wrongly presumed to be more submissive and more easily intimidated than young men have been, rather than more opposed to (sexist) militarism and to the government’s attempt to control their bodies.

Men and older people need to listen to, and help amplify, the voices of young women who speak up against draft registration. We are not and we will not be the leaders of their resistance, which will take new forms that we can neither anticipate nor control. We can only try, to the best of our ability, to support them in their choices and to amplify their voices — as so many women, young and old, have done to support me and other male draft resisters for so many years. Nothing I can do now can repay the debt I owe to the women of the Resistance. But I will try.

All of us who oppose registration and the draft, and who support peace and freedom, need to organize, prepare to resist and to support those young women who will resist, and speak out about the failure of draft registration and the inevitability of continued and expanded resistance.

Link | Posted by Edward on Tuesday, 17 May 2016, 13:16 ( 1:16 PM)

"Women's draft bid gains in Senate, stalls in House" (by Austin Wright, Connor O’Brien and Jeremy Herb, Politico.com, 17 May 2016):


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he supports requiring women to register for the military draft -- a surprise announcement that breaks with House GOP leaders who’ve made clear they want to avoid an election-year vote on the politically sensitive issue.

McConnell’s support makes it increasingly likely the Senate will vote soon to open the draft to women as part of a larger defense policy bill....

The House, though, will not follow suit. This means the ultimate decision could come in House-Senate conference negotiations later this year to craft a final version of the National Defense Authorization Act....

Armed Services Chairman John McCain came out in support of requiring women to register for the draft, including a provision to do so in the Senate version of the defense policy bill. And the Arizona Republican made clear Tuesday he expects the full Senate will vote on the issue. "I’m sure there will be an amendment and a vote," McCain told reporters.... He also noted that women senators on his panel supported a gender-neutral draft, including Republicans Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Joni Ernst of Iowa and Democrat Claire McCaskill of Missouri....

Despite their efforts to avoid a vote, House GOP leaders could find their hands tied by one major external factor that’s working against them. If lawmakers delay action on the issue, they could end up being preempted by the judicial branch — a fact that a House Armed Services aide acknowledged.

"The courts could act at any moment and send this in a direction that Congress doesn’t like,'"” said the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 18 May 2016, 06:45 ( 6:45 AM)

"Draft could help fight for women's rights" (by Sharyn L. Flanagan, USA Today, 18 May 2016):


Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 19 May 2016, 17:09 ( 5:09 PM)

"For a Stronger Military, Draft Women Too" (by Jessica Trisko Darden, Huffington Post, 19 May 2016):


Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 19 May 2016, 17:12 ( 5:12 PM)

"The Unseemly Death of an Amendment to Draft Women: How a fight against social progress in the U.S. military collapsed in on itself" (by Nicholas Clairmont, The Atlantic, 20 May 2016):


Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 20 May 2016, 05:33 ( 5:33 AM)

"Looming debate on women and the draft puts controversial issue on South Carolina's radar" (by Emma Dumain, Charleston Post & Courier, 22 May 2016):


Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 23 May 2016, 19:35 ( 7:35 PM)

"Senate set for showdown over women in the draft" (by Jordain Carney, The Hill, 22 May 2016):


Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 23 May 2016, 19:36 ( 7:36 PM)

"Rand Paul introduces amendment to get rid of draft" (by Jacqueline Klimas, Washington Examiner, 24 May 2016):


Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has introduced an amendment to the Senate's fiscal 2017 defense policy bill that would do away with the draft entirely....

The Senate is expected to begin floor debate of the National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday. Senate leadership has not yet determined which amendments lawmakers will consider, but has said amendments will be allowed.

As of Tuesday afternoon, lawmakers have introduced 32 amendments on a variety of issues

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 25 May 2016, 06:54 ( 6:54 AM)

"Senate defense bill becomes platform for controversial social issues" (by Karoun Demirjian, Washington Post, 25 May 2016):


The Senate is set to begin fighting on Wednesday over a defense policy bill that has morphed into a platform for contentious social issues that deeply divide Republicans....

The fights could delay passage of the Senate defense bill until June. But even then, many of the more contentious issues may not be resolved until the House and Senate meet in conference to hash out their differences....

The GOP divide on the issue will make it difficult for senators opposed to women in the draft to reverse the issue in the upper chamber, so the battle may have to be hashed out in conference.

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 25 May 2016, 09:45 ( 9:45 AM)

"Will Women Dodge the Draft?" (by Kelley Vlahos, The American Conservative, 26 May 2016):


Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 27 May 2016, 14:44 ( 2:44 PM)

"Sen. Lee calls for study on requiring women to register for selective service" (by Emily Long, KCSG Television, 26 May 2016):


Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 27 May 2016, 14:47 ( 2:47 PM)

"If the U.S. Made People Do Good, Would that Be Bad?" (by Michelle Cottle, The Atlantic, 27 May 2016):


"Senator Mike Lee fears enrolling women in the Selective Service is a dangerous precedent that may lead to mandatory service for things like national security and the public good."

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 27 May 2016, 14:48 ( 2:48 PM)

"Lawmakers dodge the draft and their oath" (by Donna McAleer, Huffington Post, 27 May 2016):


Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 27 May 2016, 16:45 ( 4:45 PM)

"This Memorial Day Is a Call Upon Our Next President and Congress, Too" (by Alan Khazei and Robert L. Gordon II, Huffington Post, 30 May 2016):


"Imagine what our nation could accomplish if a year of full-time national service was a rite of passage for all young Americans? We can set an expectation that every young person, as part of growing up in this country, performs at least one year of full-time service in the military or in civilian capacities.... Under current law, men ages 18 to 26 are required to register for possible military service with the Selective Service System. As the debate continues about requiring women to register in the Selective Service System, we should expand the call to service to include civilian service opportunities."

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 30 May 2016, 18:47 ( 6:47 PM)

"GOP senators move to keep women out of military draft" (by Jordain Carney, The Hill, 31 May 2016):


Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 31 May 2016, 13:06 ( 1:06 PM)

"Air Force secretary supports draft registration for women" (by Richard Lardner, Associated Press, 3 June 2016):


Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 4 June 2016, 09:08 ( 9:08 AM)

"Draft a new solution: Registration's problems go beyond inequality" (Editorial by Tim Huber, Mennonite World Review, 6 June 2016):


Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 6 June 2016, 15:03 ( 3:03 PM)

"Drafting Women is Not Only Immoral, it is Disruptive" (by Daniel Horowitz, Conservative Review, 8 June 2016):


Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 8 June 2016, 14:13 ( 2:13 PM)

“NO on National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017 (S. 2943)" (Heritage Action for America, 10 June 2016):


"The Senate will soon vote on S. 2943, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017. The Heritage Foundation has articulated numerous problems with the bill..., including ... a provision ... that forces young women between the ages of 18 and 26 to sign up for the Selective Service.... Regardless of whatever merits the bill may have, it deserves to be defeated because lawmakers should not force young women into military services through the Selective Service."

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 10 June 2016, 10:35 (10:35 AM)
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