National Security

Senate Approves Defense Bill With Language Opening Draft to Women

army
AP

The full Senate on Tuesday voted to pass annual defense legislation that includes language that would require women to register for the draft.

The Senate approved the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by a vote of 85-13. The bill would require women to sign up for the Selective Service, which led some Republicans to vote against it on Tuesday.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) sponsored a dozen amendments that were eventually adopted into the bill but voted against the legislation because he could not "vote to draft our daughters into the military."

"This legislation also forces programs on the American people that are not necessary to protect our lives and safety. It is being used as a vehicle to further agendas that have nothing to do with actually defending America," Cruz said in a statement following the vote. "Despite the many laudable objectives in this bill, I could not in good conscience vote to draft our daughters into the military, sending them off to war and forcing them into combat."

Others, including Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), expressed support for the provision. The language was adopted into the bill when the Senate Armed Services Committee, which McCain chairs, marked it up in May.

In total, six Republicans voted against the annual defense legislation, according to Politico.

A group of Republicans led by Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) introduced an amendment to the NDAA that would have removed the provision and replaced it with language requiring the Defense Department to assess the continued need for a Selective Service System.

"Forcing women to register for the draft would be a sea change not only for our Armed Services but culturally as well," Lee said in a statement introducing the amendment last month. "I simply have not seen enough research from the Department of Defense on why this is needed or how it would work."

The amendment, which Cruz cosponsored, was never brought to the floor for a vote.

Currently, only men between ages 18 and 26 are required to register for the Selective Service. However, the Pentagon’s decision to open up all combat roles to women this year has sparked a debate over whether women should also be required to sign up for the draft.

A plurality of women do not support requiring female Americans to sign up for the draft, according to a YouGov poll released in June.

The Senate version of next fiscal year’s NDAA breaks with the House version on the women and the draft issue. While members of the House Armed Services Committee initially voted to include a provision in the bill requiring women to sign up for the draft, the Rules Committee eventually stripped the language from the legislation. The action was meant to prevent a "reckless policy" from being put in place without proper oversight, Rep. Pete Sessions (R., Texas), the committee’s chair, said at the time. The full House approved the NDAA in May.

The Obama administration has threatened to veto both versions of the annual defense legislation.