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Kelly Ayotte Backs Draft Registration for Women

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Having heard from top military officials, Sen. Kelly Ayotte is backing the idea of requiring women to register for the draft.  

"After the hearing that we had the other day about women in combat, I support it. I think that we've opened up all the combat billets for women who can meet the qualifications of those billets, and therefore it makes sense that ... women would also register for the Selective Service," the New Hampshire Republican said.  

Ayotte told Roll Call she was pleased that Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., raised the question with military leaders at an Armed Services Committee hearing last week on the subject of opening combat roles to women.  

"I was very glad she asked it, because I knew it was an issue we were going to have to address and they were all very clear on it, and it made sense to me," Ayotte said. "  

Army Chief of Staff Mark A. Milley and Marine Corps Commandant Robert Neller were direct in saying that with the other policy changes, all able-bodied Americans should have to register for the draft, regardless of their gender.  

The issue has become something of pre-primary flash point in Ayotte's home state of New Hampshire ahead of Tuesday's first-in-the-nation primary. During a debate there this weekend, Martha Raddatz of ABC posed the question about expanding the Selective Service to women.  

Sen. Marco Rubio was among the presidential hopefuls fielding the question, reaching the same conclusion as Ayotte, saying that with the Pentagon expanding opportunities for women to service in combat roles generally, the draft should be included.  

"I have no problem whatsoever with people of either gender serving in combat so long as the minimum requirements necessary to do the job are not compromised," said the Florida Republican. "But, I support that, and obviously now that that is the case I do believe that Selective Service should be opened up for both men and women in case a draft is ever instituted."  

The attention Sunday was on Cruz, another senator seeking the White House who expressed fervent opposition, having not gotten the draft question sent his way during the debate.  

"We have had enough with political correctness — especially in the military," Cruz said in New Hamphire, according to multiple media outlets present, including CNN . "Political correctness is dangerous, and the idea that we would draft our daughters, to forcibly bring them into the military and put them in close contact — I think is wrong, it is immoral, and if I am president, we ain't doing it."  

Some other lawmakers have not reached a conclusion on the question yet.  

"We currently have an All-Volunteer Force. Ultimately, the Obama Administration has opened the door over whether women will be required to register with Selective Service," Sen. Joni Ernst said in a statement provided to Roll Call on Monday. The Republican from Iowa spent more than two decades combined in the Army Reserves and the National Guard.  

Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said that he was going to make sure that his panel has jurisdiction over the process, saying he had not yet discussed the matter with Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz.  

Contact Lesniewski at nielslesniewski@cqrollcall.com and follow him on Twitter at @nielslesniewski.  

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