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Mike Lee Legislation Wants to Ensure Only Congress Changes Draft Rules

Maj. Brittany Nutt, 86th Medical Squadron women's health nurse practitioner, swears her daughter, Kiersten, into the Air Force before she leaves for basic military training Nov. 23, 2015, at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Larissa Greatwood)

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has introduced a bill that would require Congress to approve any changes in who has to sign up for the selective service.

Selective Service Director Lawrence G. Romo said earlier this month that with the Defense Department’s opening of all roles to women the implementation plan will also “address the legal implications of the Department of Defense’s decision on the male-only registration requirement.”

“The bottom line for the Selective Service System is that we do not create policy; we implement the policy as mandated by our president and Congress,” Romo said, putting the chance that women would have to register for any draft at 50/50.

Romo said the final determination would come through the legislative or judicial branch.

“The White House will also be working with Congress to determine if changes are necessary in light of DOD’s decision to open all combat positions to qualified women,” he said.

Lee’s bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and Bill Cassidy (R-La.),would ensure that only Congress gets to change the draft.

Rubio and Cruz split on the issue at one of the GOP presidential debates.

“When it comes to whether or not women should be forced to fight in combat, there are honest differences of opinion on the issue,” Lee said Thursday.

“Some say the right policy now is to end selective service altogether. Some want to add women, but only as a contingency. Some say women might be drafted, but precluded from combat positions. This is an unsettled debate. So it’s a decision that should be made by the American people’s elected representatives – not unelected bureaucrats or judges,” Lee continued.

Speaking to troops in San Diego on Feb. 3, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said “that’s not something we decide.”

“That’s something Congress would have to decide. It stands to reason that Congress is going to have to think this through and would have to change the law accordingly. I expect them to take this up,” Carter said. “My guess is that they’ll want to have, as is understandable and reasonable for Congress, they’re going to want to, you know, discuss it with their own constituents and so forth and sort of think about it. But to me, it stands to reason that it’ll be taken up by the Congress, this law, because of the decisions that we’ve made here in the department, which I’m sure are right.”

Carter said the Pentagon is focused on the implementation of integration of qualified women into combat roles.

“We’ll do it like we do everything else; very deliberately, very sensibly… But I’m pretty confident that’ll go well,” he said. “It’s very much the right thing to do for force effectiveness. And again, it has that consequence that I think Congress will want to take up the issue of, the draft.”