Leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees agreed Tuesday to strike from the annual defense authorization bill language that would require women to register for the draft.
The committees are scrambling this week to come together on a final draft of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) after the must-pass legislation stalled in the Senate.
Among the flashpoints this year was an amendment to strike language already passed by the full House and the Senate Armed Services Committee that for the first time would require young women to register for and be subject to the military draft if it is reinstated.
Supporters of the change note the rising number of women already serving in the military and that virtually all military assignments, including combat jobs, are being filled by both sexes.
The measure exposed fissures in the Republican Party as the NDAA made its way through the House. Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus called out fellow Republicans who refused to fight the change.
More moderate House Republicans said the language was not worth tanking the whole bill, which included several key wins for the GOP conference.
The House passed its version of the NDAA in September with the draft measure intact.
Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, voted against including women in the draft during the Senate Armed Services Committee mark-up over the summer and introduced a last-ditch amendment to strike the language on the Senate floor.
“It is wrong to force our daughters, mothers, wives and sisters to fight our wars,” Mr. Hawley said.
Five other Senate Republicans signed onto his measure: Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, and Roger Marshall of Kansas.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, has faced bipartisan backlash as the bill languished in the upper chamber.
Lawmakers were forced to go back to the drawing board after the NDAA hit an impasse in the Senate over Republicans’ objections to Democratic proposals to advance the legislation without allowing votes on key GOP amendments.
“Because enacting the NDAA in a timely manner is critical, the two bills were combined through a series of negotiations led by the leadership of the HASC and SASC,” a spokesperson for the two committees said Tuesday in a statement. “Negotiators considered proposals offered by members of both parties that were filed in the Senate.”
The final text of the bill was released midday Tuesday, and will proceed through the House Rules Committee before the revised bill is taken up on the House floor.