House-Senate split emerges over women registering for draft
WASHINGTON _ A split has emerged between House and Senate Republicans over whether women should have to register for the draft beginning in 2018.
House Republicans on the influential Rules Committee stripped a provision from the defense bill that included the requirement. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, a member of the committee, was among those who voted to remove the provision.
The defense bill is expected to be considered by the full House later this week.
Cole, whose district includes Tinker Air Force Base and the Army post Fort Sill, said in a statement to The Oklahoman on Tuesday, "The United States has not had a draft in more than 40 years, and it is unlikely that we will have one in the foreseeable future. The proposal to require that women register for the draft is a solution in search of a problem. Given those facts, I do not see the point in requiring women to register for a draft that almost certainly will not occur."
Rep. Adam Smith, of Washington, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, blasted the move by Republicans to remove the provision.
"This is a dead-of-night attempt to take an important issue off the table, and I think people will probably see through this tactic," Smith said.
The Senate Armed Services Committee completed its version of the defense bill last week and included a provision requiring women to register for the draft.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, tried to remove the provision in a closed-door session, but lost by a vote of 7 to 19. Those supporting Lee were conservative red state senators, including Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa.
All seven women on the Senate panel _ including three Republicans _ voted for the requirement that women register for the draft. Among the Republican women voting for the requirement was Sen. Joni Ernst, of Iowa, a U.S. Army veteran who served as a company commander in Iraq.
The Senate defense bill is expected to be considered by the full Senate later this month.
The committee's summary says of the draft provision: "Because the Department of Defense has lifted the ban on women serving in ground combat units, the committee believes there is no further justification in limiting the duty to register under the Military Selective Service Act to men. Furthermore, each uniformed chief of the services testified to their personal support of including women in the requirement to register for selective service."
The issue could ultimately be resolved in a House-Senate conference committee when the House and Senate bills must be reconciled and a final version written.