The Senate has approved a defense budget that would also require women to register for the draft. The new rules would apply to any woman who turns 18 on or after January 1, 2018. The key opponents to drafting women were conservative Republicans, including your old friend, botched Madam Tussauds exhibit Ted Cruz.

This one has been brewing for a while: back in April, the House Armed Services Committee voted to approve a version of the National Defense Authorization Act, the mammoth yearly military budget, that included women in the draft. (The full NDAA appropriates $602 billion to the armed services, because the United States spends more on our military budget than any other country on earth and the next seven countries combined.)

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But the conservative Republican Congressman who introduced the “draft women” provision doesn’t actually support it; Rep. Duncan Hunter of California intended it as “gotcha amendment,” because he didn’t think liberals would vote to draft women. He was trying to make some sort of curious point about how Democrats don’t really support integrating women into the military, specifically into combat roles. Hunter then proceeded to vote against his own amendment. It was all very odd.

But including women in the draft was less controversial than Hunter believed, and the measure stayed in. On Tuesday, the Senate approved the NDAA 85-13, even as Cruz and his conservative think tank backers wrung their hands. From Politico:

Heritage Action, the conservative advocacy arm of The Heritage Foundation, deemed the defense policy bill a “key vote” that would count on its annual lawmaker scorecards because of the draft language.

“It is a radical change that is attempting to be foisted on the American people,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said. “The idea that we should forcibly conscript young girls into combat, to my mind, makes little or no sense. It is at a minimum a radical proposition. I could not vote for a bill that did so, particularly that did so without public debate.”

Just to be crystal clear here, Cruz and Heritage Action oppose drafting women because of innate, sexist ideas about women’s roles and physical abilities. Women have served with honor and distinction in combat roles for years, something you wouldn’t know from Heritage Action’s website, which claims that women in the military will hurt men and damage military readiness:

Conservatives believe women and men have equal natural rights, and equality means that law should treat things that are the same in the same ways. But when it comes to combat-related tasks, there are differences between men and women that are relevant to accomplishing the military mission.

According to former Marine Corps servicewoman Jude Eden, “Combat is not an equal opportunity for women because they don’t have an equal opportunity to survive.” If women’s increased risk of injury makes them more vulnerable when engaging the enemy, why would Congress ever want to require women to be registered for the Selective Service, and ultimately the draft?

Now, though, President Obama is threatening to veto the NDAA when it reaches his desk, albeit not because of drafting women. The bill as written calls for keeping the detention center at Guantanamo open, which the president promised to close on his first day in office.

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The NDAA is headed for a conference to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill, and then probably to a gigantic argument between Congress and Obama soon after.


In a May 9, 2012 photo, Capt. Sara Rodriguez of the 101st Airborne Division walks through the woods during the expert field medical badge testing at Fort Campbell, Ky. Photo via AP