Senate Democrats have added language to the annual defense authorization bill to require women to register for the draft, prompting a backlash from Republicans and social conservatives and complicating the chances of moving the bill on the Senate floor before Election Day.

Conservatives led by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) are certain to attempt to remove the provision requiring women to register for the draft, which could present a tough vote for Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and other Democrats in tight reelection races.

Republican candidate Sam Brown, who is running against Rosen, is already making it an issue in the Nevada Senate race.


Brown, an Army veteran who was severely burned by an improvised explosive device explosion, slammed Rosen in a video for voting to require women to sign up for the draft.

“Look at my face. This is the high cost of war,” he posted recently on the social platform X.

“Amy and I volunteered to serve, and we honor all who serve,” he wrote, referring to his wife. “But forcing America’s daughters to register for the draft is UNACCEPTABLE. Shame on Jacky Rosen.”

In the video posted below those comments, Brown pointed to the scarring on his face as evidence of the dangers women would face in combat theaters.

“Look at my face. This is the high cost of war and I just found out that Jacky Rosen voted this week to make signing up for the draft mandatory for our daughters. You’ll be hearing more from me on this,” he said.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) called the provision requiring women to sign up for the draft “insane.”

He accused the Biden administration of trying to implement a woke agenda at the Pentagon.

“There shouldn’t be women in the draft. They shouldn’t be forced to serve if they don’t want to,” he said on Fox News. He criticized Democrats for wanting to experiment with the military, saying “normal people are like, ‘Leave our daughters alone.’”

Hawley led efforts to strip language requiring women to sign up for the draft from the defense authorization bill in 2021 and 2022.

A group affiliated with former Vice President Mike Pence also weighed in on the issue Wednesday.

The group, Advancing American Freedom, wrote a letter to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) declaring that “the notion of the United States of America requiring women to register to fight our wars is simply untenable and must be opposed at all costs.”

Wicker, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he’ll try to strip it out of the bill.

“I’m opposed to that. I don’t think this is the time to get into a debate on the floor of either house about that. We’re not anywhere near implementing a draft, and to me it’s a distraction when we need to be talking about real issues that are immediate,” he said.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.) defended the proposed policy change, arguing that women can hold many warfighting positions without serving as front-line infantry troops.

“Women are doing a remarkable job in our forces today, and if we were in a situation requiring a draft, I think we would need all able-bodied citizens 18 and above,” he said.

“If we go to a draft, that means we’re in a serious, serious situation,” he added.

“It’s not like World War II where we need a lot of infantry. We need cyber experts, we need intelligence analysts, linguists, etc. Wait a second, there are a lot of women out there that can do this better than men,” he argued.

He said the intense GOP opposition to the proposal “just doesn’t make any sense.”

Senate aides point out the issue cuts across party lines, with some Republicans generally supportive of requiring women to sign up for the Selective Service System, just like men when they turn 18.

Senate Republicans are already raising doubts about whether Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) will even bring the bill to the floor anytime soon, given the dwindling number of days on the legislative calendar before the election.

“I do hope we get to the floor. It’s very important we have this debate publicly. … I hear rumblings that the Democratic leader may not bring it to the floor, I hope that can be reversed,” Wicker said.

McConnell on Monday urged Schumer to bring the defense bill to the floor “without delay.”

The Republican leader hailed the Senate Armed Services Committee for marking up the defense bill earlier this month but then suggested Democrats may drag out the process of bringing it to the floor.

“But shortly after the committee’s action, senior Senate Democrats shattered any expectation that they were ready to start taking the requirements of the national defense seriously,” he said.

Voting to require women to make themselves eligible for the draft could come back to bite Democrats in Republican-leaning or battleground states, such as Montana and Nevada.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Steve Daines (R-Mont.) seized on the issue in the last Congress when he backed an amendment in 2022 to remove a provision requiring women to register for the Selective Service System from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

“Brave Montana men and women carry out the Treasure State’s rich legacy of service by voluntarily joining our nation’s military. There is no need to force our nation’s daughters to enter the draft,” Daines said at the time.

Hawley offered an amendment to strike the women’s draft language from the NDAA in 2021. His action put pressure on Democrats to ultimately remove the issue from the bill without voting on the amendment in December of that year.


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