House passes defense bill automatically registering men 18-26 for draft

The House of Representatives passed a measure on Friday automatically registering men aged 18 to 26 for selective service.

It was part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets out the U.S. government’s military and national security priorities over the next fiscal year. 

This year's NDAA authorizes $895.2 billion in military spending, a $9 billion increase from fiscal 2024.

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While it hasn’t been invoked in over half a century, it’s mandatory for all male U.S. citizens to register for the selective service, also known as the military draft, when they turn 18. Failure to register is classified as a felony and comes with a host of legal challenges.

Supporters of the amendment argue that it would cut down on bureaucratic red tape and help U.S. citizens avoid unnecessary legal issues, as well as cutting down on the taxpayer dollars going toward prosecuting those cases.

It was led by Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., and passed in the House Armed Services Committee’s version of the NDAA in May. The NDAA advanced through the committee in an overwhelming 57 to 1 vote.

"By using available federal databases, the [Selective Service] agency will be able to register all of the individuals required and thus help ensure that any future military draft is fair and equitable," Houlahan said during debate last month, according to Defense News.

"This will also allow us to rededicate resources — basically that means money — towards reading readiness and towards mobilization … rather than towards education and advertising campaigns driven to register people."

The NDAA also included the largest-ever military pay raise in history, with a 19.5% increase for junior enlisted troops and a 4.5% increase for others.

It also included funding for two new Virginia-class submarines and the establishment of a drone force within the U.S. Army, among other provisions.

The NDAA passed the House in a 217 to 199 vote, but it’s unlikely to be taken up by the Senate. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., blasted the bill on Friday afternoon over the inclusion of amendments curbing funding for abortion, transgender medical care, and diversity efforts.

"Unsurprisingly, the legislation coming out of the House today is loaded with anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice, anti-environment, and other divisive amendments guaranteed not to pass the Senate," Schumer said. "As we move forward with this year’s NDAA process, both sides will have to work together to pass bipartisan legislation that honors and respects all who serve in defense of our nation."

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