House Votes This Week on Selective Service

Key votes in the U.S. House of Representatives on proposals to repeal (unlikely), expand to women (most likely), or eliminate some of the penalties for violations of the Military Selective Service Act will take place this week as part of the debate on this year’s annual National Defense [sic] Authorization Act (NDAA).

Here’s a calendar of the Congressional and Presidential actions that are leading up to women being required to register and report address changes to the Selective Service System starting when women born in 2005 turn 18 in 2023.

Calls to members of the House are needed now, especially to members of the House Rules Committee who will decide this Monday whether the full House will debate or vote on whether to expand draft registration to women (or will enact this as part of a larger bill with no line-item debate or vote on Selective Service).

The version of the NDAA as reported to the House floor by the House Armed Services Committee, which will be enacted unless amended, includes a section that would would expand Selective Service registration to young women as well as young men.

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House and Senate Armed Services Committees Vote To Make Women Register for the Draft

On September 1st the House Armed Services Committee joined the Senate Armed Services Committee in voting 35-24 to expand registration for a possible military draft to include young women as well as young men.

Following this House committee vote and an earlier Senate committee vote in July (before Congress’s summer vacation), the versions of the annual "must-pass" National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to be considered later this fall in both the House and Senate will include provisions requiring women to register for the draft within 30 days of their 18th birthday and report to the Selective Service System each time they change their address until their 26th birthday, as young men have been required to do since 1980.

An alternative compromise amendment to suspend draft registration unless the President declared a national emergency and put the Selective Service System into standby was submitted before today’s committee session, but ruled out of order on the basis of arcane PAYGO procedural rules. Under the same rules, the amendment to the NDAA to expand draft registration to women was ruled in order, considered, and adopted without any antiwar opposition from members of the committee.

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Crunch Time in Congress for Selective Service

In the most significant Congressional debate about compulsory military service in the U.S. in decades, Congress is now actively considering multiple proposals related to draft registration and Selective Service.

Ending draft registration would be one of the most profound victories for the peace movement in decades, made possible by nonviolent mass direct action in the form of quiet and spontaneous but pervasive and sustained noncompliance by young people that has rendered draft registration unenforceable and the registration list useless for an actual draft.

By preventing a draft, young people and their resistance have helped protect us all against wider war. Ending draft registration would finalize that victory by forcing an admission that a draft is not an option – because young people will not submit voluntarily and cannot be compelled to comply – and removing the draft from the arsenal of war planning.

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Supreme Court Won’t Review Constitutionality of Current Male-Only Draft Registration Requirement

The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it has denied the petition for certiorari in the case of National Coalition For Men v. Selective Service System.

The Supreme Court’s action today leaves in effect the decision by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissing the complaint and the District Court judgment.

What has happened, and what does it mean for the future of Selective Service?

The Supreme Court’s self-imposed rules require the votes of four of the nine Justices to hear a case. Those votes are taken behind closed doors, and neither how many Justices (if any) voted to hear a case, nor how any individual Justice voted, are made public unless one or more Justices choose, at their own sole discretion, to disclose their vote and/or issue a written statement.

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House Hearing on Selective Service

A House Armed Service Committee (HASC) hearing on May 19th heard from witnesses on only one side of the debate over whether to end draft registration or extend it to young women as well as young men. But despite the one-sided panel of witnesses, questions and comments from members of Congress highlighted the failure of the ongoing attempt to get men to register for a future military draft, and the lack of any feasible way to enforce a future military draft of men or women.

The Chair of the Armed Service Committee, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), opened the hearing by noting a written statement submitted by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR). Rep. DeFazio is one of the initial co-sponsors of the bipartisan Selective Service Repeal Act of 2021 (H.R. 2509 and S. 1139), which is pending in the Armed Services Committees in both the House and the Senate.

According to Rep. DeFazio, "President Carter reinstated draft registration in 1980 largely for political reasons. Military draft registration has existed ever since, requiring all men aged 18-26 to register with the Selective Service System (SSS). It should be repealed altogether…. The SSS is an unnecessary, unwanted, archaic, wasteful, and punitive bureaucracy that violates Americans’ civil liberties… It’s beyond time for Congress to repeal the SSS once and for all."

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‘Selective Service Repeal Act’ Introduced in Congress

The Selective Service Repeal Act of 2021 (H.R. 2509 and S. 1139) was introduced in Congress on April 14th with bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate.

Initial co-sponsors of the bill to end draft registration and abolish the Selective Service System are Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

"No young person, regardless of gender, should be subject to a military draft or be forced to register for a draft in the United States. The military draft registration system is an unnecessary, wasteful bureaucracy which unconstitutionally violates Americans’ civil liberties. We should be abolishing military draft registration altogether, not expanding it," said Rep. DeFazio.

"If a war is worth fighting, Congress will vote to declare it and people will volunteer," said Sen. Paul.

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