Congressman Roger Williams

Representing the 25th District of Texas

Women won’t be drafted into the military in defense spending bill that House passes

Dec 2, 2016
In The News

WASHINGTON: A behemoth $619 billion defense spending bill passed the House of Representatives on Friday, and Texans had their hands all over it.

The annual bill, dubbed the National Defense Authorization Act, funds the Department of Defense. The bill passed Friday does not require women to register for the draft and includes the largest pay increase for troops in six years.

Although the bill is expected to be approved by the Senate, registering women for the draft turned into a political battle in the past few months.

In June, the Senate voted to include women in the draft with bipartisan support, despite objections from conservative members like Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

“The idea that we should forcibly conscript young girls into combat, to my mind, makes little or no sense,” Cruz said on the Senate floor in June.

Earlier this week, the White House offered its support for registering women.

“As old barriers for military service are being removed, the administration supports — as a logical next step — women registering for the Selective Service,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said.

But House Republicans like Austin, Texas, Rep. Roger Williams got their way, and women will not be required to register for Selective Service.

“The annual passage of this defense bill is a reminder that Congress can still work for the people and the brave men and women defending our freedom,” said Williams in a statement. “We have a lot to be proud of in this bill, and I expect our commander in chief to show leadership by swiftly signing this valuable piece of legislation into law as soon as it arrives on his desk.”

Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Republican from Clarendon, Texas, who’s the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, brought the bill to a vote on the House floor and praised the 2.1 percent pay increase for troops starting in January.

“This bipartisan bill focuses on our troops, America’s most important national defense resource,” Thornberry said in a statement. “It provides them a full pay raise for the first time in four years, it stops layoffs of our military personnel and actually increases the end strength of our armed forces.”

Fort Worth, Texas, Democrat Marc Veasey, a member of the Armed Services Committee, voted in favor of the legislation, which passed 375-34.

Veasey touted the bill’s funding of 63 new F-35 aircraft, equalizing survivor benefits for active-duty soldiers and excluding an amendment he described as “a dangerous provision which would have permitted discrimination based on an individual’s religious beliefs, gender or sexual orientation.”

The F-35 is a Fort Worth-made fighter jet that costs up to $116 million to build, along with millions annually in upgrades and maintenance.

The size of the military will increase to 476,000 service members under the legislation, which also includes an overhaul of the military health care system.

It is unclear whether President Barack Obama will veto the spending bill if it passes in the Senate during the last weeks of his presidency.