Democrats Tuck Female Draft Into Defense Bill

Republican bids to eliminate critical race theory, protect all-male draft shot down in late-night debate

Female Marine recruits / Getty Images
September 2, 2021

The Pentagon will have to start drafting women in order to receive funding after House Democrats amended the defense budget.

Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D., Pa.) put forward a measure on Wednesday to require all women over the age of 18 to register for selective service. Houlahan said her policy would best draw on the "talents of our entire nation." Only one in three women, however, support adding women to the draft, according to an Ipsos poll. Republicans pilloried the legislation. Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R., Mo.), a House Armed Services Committee member, lampooned the prospect that millions of America’s daughters could be put needlessly in the line of fire.

"I feel confident that in an emergency that the women of this country would step up and volunteer as needed," Hartzler said. "It seems like this is a solution in search of a problem. ... We don't need to draft women in order for women to have equality in this nation."

Female participation in the military has steadily increased since 2004, rising to 17 percent in 2018. A larger percentage of women in military service are commissioned as officers than men. Critics say conscription should focus on fielding the most effective fighting force, rather than gender ideology. Terry Schilling, the president of the American Principles Project, which led a campaign against the measure, told the Washington Free Beacon the decision could have a crippling effect on lawmakers who passed the bill.

"I think I'm speaking on behalf of millions of fathers across the country when I say I don’t want my daughters drafted into the next military conflict," Schilling said. "To conscript them into the military and put them on the frontlines is a nightmare."

Houlahan’s measure passed 35-24, with five Republicans crossing party lines to support it. A similar measure passed the Senate by a razor-thin margin over the objections of national security hawks. Former Army Ranger Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Air Force veteran Sen. Roger Wicker (R., Miss.) jousted with Democrats over its inclusion into the annual spending bill.

"Our military has welcomed women for decades and are stronger for it," Cotton said in July. "But America’s daughters shouldn’t be drafted against their will. I opposed this amendment in committee, and I’ll work to remove it before the defense bill passes."

"I support our military’s efforts to offer more opportunities for women who want to volunteer to serve," Wicker said in July. "But when I think of my own daughters and granddaughters, I could not in good conscience support an amendment that would compel their military service."

House Democrats also stifled a Republican bid to bar critical race theory from the ranks. Democrats shot down an amendment sponsored by Hartzler, as well as by Reps. Jim Banks (R., Ind.) and Mark Green (R., Tenn.), that would preclude military academies and instructors of enlisted troops from teaching the controversial ideology.

"When it comes to law enforcement and the military, you can’t tolerate lies and a lack of integrity," Schilling said. "It's very concerning to me and millions of families across this country that the military is embracing lies like critical race theory."