The House Armed Service Committee voted late Wednesday for an amendment that would require women to enroll in military service.
The bipartisan proposal received 35-24 votes and was led by Democratic Rep. Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania and Mike Waltz, Republican Rep. from Florida.
The term ‘male citizen’ would be removed from the current law and replaced by the non-gender ‘citizen’.
The House Armed Service Committee voted late Wednesday for an amendment that would allow women to enroll in military service
As the law currently stands, men aged 18 to 25 must register with the Pentagon’s Selective Service System or else they will be punished.
Houlahan, an Air Force veteran, argued during a drafting session for the massive National Defense Authorization Act that including women would “modernize” the Army’s selective service system.
“This policy is not rushed or unnecessary,” she said. “For decades, our citizens, both women and men, have been trying to bring about this change. It’s a thing of the past.’
She said it was a “disservice” that women were not included and said the Selective Service Act, as written, “is unconstitutional and discriminates on the basis of gender.”
“This amendment clarifies that the purpose of selective service is greater than just drafting combat replacements,” she argued. “It ensures that the selective service system is able to supply the DOD with all the sufficient personnel, with all the necessary skills, with a national mobilization, so cyber, STEM, technical talents and others.’
The Senate passed a similar amendment to its defense bill earlier this summer.
“It’s time we stood up here in Congress and did the same,” Houlahan urged. ‘By reforming the selective service into a gender-neutral registration, we draw on the talents of our entire country in times of a national emergency.’
Waltz, the first Green Beret to serve in Congress, asked his colleagues to imagine the United States would be hit by “COVID on steroids or a massive cyberattack.”
The amendment was sponsored by Democratic Rep. Pennsylvania Air Force veteran Chrissy Houlahan who claimed it would “modernize” the Pentagon’s selective service system.
He said at this event, “We need everyone.”
“We need male, female, gay, straight, whatever religion, black, white-brown,” Waltz argued.
Five Republicans joined 30 Democrats to vote for the provision.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler from Missouri was not one of them.
“This current system doesn’t shut anyone down,” she said, pointing out that women were free to serve.
“But it looks like this is an amendment — it’s a solution in search of a problem,” she offered. “That’s not necessary now.”
Representative Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, said she was in favor of the move, although she said there are some who don’t believe the nation still needs a selective service system.
The last time the design was implemented was during the Vietnam War.
“It’s time we recognized that fairness is fair and that we all have a duty to serve our country in times of need,” Speier said.
The amendment will have to survive a conference committee – when the differences between the House and Senate version of the defense bill are resolved — and then votes in the full House and Senate before it makes its way into President Joe Biden’s office.
In April, the Biden administration asked the Supreme Court not to pass a case asking whether the all-male draft was constitutional, arguing that Congress should answer the question instead.
In June, the Supreme Court rejected an objection to registering the male-only selective service, saying Congress should be given more time to settle the matter.