Several Republicans broke from ranks to help Democrats adopt the change.
Calls for widening the pool of possible military service to include all Americans, not just men, have grown when the Pentagon opened all military combat roles to women in 2015. Proponents of the change also claim that the current system is discriminatory.
“The time has come,” said Houlahan, an Air Force veteran. “Women make up over 50 percent of our population, and not putting them into the electoral service is a disservice not only to these women, but also to our nation as a whole.”
If the provision remains in the Defense Act and is passed on the House Floor, the change has a good chance of becoming law. The Senate Armed Forces Committee has adopted a similar provision in its Defense Act, which is pending a plenary vote.
Current law requires American men to register for the Selective Service at the age of 18, even though there has been no conscription in more than four decades. However, the law stays on the books in case the US has to call men to service during wartime.
A Republican supporter, Rep. Michael Waltz of Florida, a former Army Green Beret, warned that the military would need a much larger pool of recruits in the event of a “national emergency so serious that it must be drafted” .
“If it’s so bad that we have to go to a draft, we need everyone,” said Waltz. “We need men, women, gay, straight, every religion, black, white, brown. We need everyone, everyone on deck.”
Despite cross-party support, conservative lawmakers and advocacy groups have made efforts to extend the draft to women.
“We do not have to convene women so that women have equal rights in this nation,” said MP Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.). “Women are precious and valuable right now, and we are equal to men without having to pass a new law requiring 50 percent of this land – our daughters and our sisters and our wives – to be confiscated.”
The Senate Armed Forces Committee approved a similar expansion of the draft in a bipartisan vote in July. The change, offered by Chairman of the Armed Forces, Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Cheered Conservative Senators on, even though the bill was still passed with a wide bipartisan vote from the committee.
The entire Senate is due to deliberate on the Defense Act this fall.
An independent commission charged by Congress with examining the military and civil service recommended, among other things, obliging women to register for selective service last year.
Several lawsuits have challenged the current law on the grounds that it is discriminatory and unconstitutional. The Supreme Court declined to hear a National Coalition for Men lawsuit in June contesting the male-only draft.