Changes to the draft, officially known as the Selective Service System, were made official in the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual military budget bill, which the Senate Armed Services Committee announced it had approved Thursday.
The NDAA “amends the Military Selective Service Act to require the registration of women for Selective Service,” a summary of the bill reads.
The US military has not instituted a draft since the Vietnam War, and Pentagon officials have repeatedly said they intend to keep US armed forces all-volunteer.
Still, men between the ages of 18 and 25 are legally required to be registered with the Selective Service System. Penalties for not doing so include losing access to federal financial aid programs for higher education.
The language strikes explicit references to men, changing the requirement to “All Americans.”
The change was originally proposed by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI), but Congress has been debating the issue since 2016.
A military draft has not been used since the Vietnam War.
At the time, the Armed Services committees in both the House and Senate included language in their defense budgets, though it ended up not making the final bill text after the House dropped the language.
Instead, the legislation included funding to create a commission to investigate the issue.
That group, the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service, said in early 2020 that it would recommend women be required to register.
Congress has passed the NDAA annually for the last 60 years. The Senate Armed Services panel approved a $778 billion budget agreement this week that includes a $25 billion boost to the Pentagon’s coffers.
The $778 billion price tag includes about $28 billion for Energy Department national security programs and $10 billion on defense activities at other agencies, leaving $740.3 billion for the Defense Department.
That number marks a $25 billion increase from the $715 billion requested by Biden, who is unlikely to respond warmly to raising the military budget even more.
Left-wing pols have largely been pushing for a 10 percent cut, something extremely unlikely to pass the House or Senate.
The Senate is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, though Vice President Kamala Harris, as Senate president, has a tie-breaking vote. Still, 51 votes are not enough under current rules to break through the filibuster.
The legislative filibuster is the Senate rule requiring 60 members to end debate on most topics and move forward to a vote.
In this Senate, Democrats need 10 Republicans to move any major legislation forward, though they can bypass the filibuster through budget reconciliation on certain bills.
While budget reconciliation would allow Democrats to pass spending for critical projects, the process cannot be used to change or create laws.
As a result, passing this budget will require the House and Senate to come together and agree on final text. That process will likely take months of negotiations between committee and party leadership, and be one of the final items to pass this year.