Cruz -- and Rubio -- back Mike Lee's bill to make sure Congress, not Obama or the courts, decides whether women can be drafted

This is a no-brainer for Cruz, who came out hard against drafting women last week, but it’s interesting coming from Rubio after he declared himself in favor at the last debate. You can read his motives here as charitably or uncharitably as you like. Charitably: He’s striking a blow for legislative power at the executive’s and judiciary’s expense, a welcome corrective in an age of growing presidential power and judicial social engineering. Uncharitably: He realized belatedly that “let’s draft your daughters” isn’t a sentiment that’ll play well in a Republican primary, especially among the social conservatives he’s trying to win, so he’s backtracking from what he said at the debate to the extent that he can.


Rubio knows Cruz is preparing a roundhouse for him on this topic at the next debate on Saturday night, so here’s his attempt to clinch:

Though Rubio made clear in last Saturday’s Republican debate that he supports opening up the draft to women, Alex Burgos, the Senator’s spokesman, affirmed his support for leaving that decision up to the legislative branch. “Senator Rubio agrees with Senator Lee that Congress needs to determine the future of the Selective Service system and is working on legislation to codify that role and plans to support it,” Burgos said.

Cruz has stated on the campaign trail that he would ardently oppose any attempt to change the current law. “The idea that we would draft our daughters to forcibly bring them into the military and put them in close combat, I think, is wrong. It is immoral,” he told a New Hampshire audience on Sunday.

Lee’s legislation is an attempt to preempt a scenario in which the Supreme Court takes up another challenge to the selective-service law and decides to “rewrite it like they did for Obamacare,” says Conn Carroll, the Utah Senator’s spokesman.

Why do we need a bill like this? Because the rationale underlying an old Supreme Court precedent upholding an all-male draft has weakened:

The Supreme Court upheld the all-male draft in 1981, finding that women could be excluded because they would not be called to fill critical combat positions during a war. But since the Pentagon began full integration of women that rationale might no longer be valid.

Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley testified to the Senate this month that they believe the exemption should be ended.


That’s one reason Rubio gambled on supporting drafting women at the debate. He’s got cover from the military itself for his position, and he’ll surely use it when Cruz comes after him. Another reason is that the polling on this issue isn’t quite as lopsided as you might think if Rasmussen’s new data is accurate:

The poll found that 52 percent of women oppose requiring women to register, while 38 percent favor it and 10 percent are undecided.

Sixty-one percent of male respondents favored requiring that women register.

Overall, the split was more even, with 49 percent supporting and 44 percent opposing.

Most Republicans, 53 percent, said they oppose making women register for the draft, while 49 percent of Democrats said they favor it.

Republicans lean against it but not overwhelmingly, and there may be room for a shift given that the GOP skews male and men support including women in the draft. Even if this issue costs Rubio a tiny bit in the primaries, though, he’s always been touted as the candidate Republicans should ideally want for the general election and that’s how he seemed to be thinking in his debate answer — towards the general election. (It’s hard to remember now, after the debate malfunction heard ’round the world, but prediction markets had Rubio as the favorite for the nomination last weekend.) The “should we draft women?” question reeks of a wedge issue being used by the media to force Republicans to choose between their primary audience, which opposes the idea, and the general electorate, which leans in favor. According to another poll taken three years ago, 59 percent of Americans support including women in the draft. Rubio is trying to stay on that side of the issue to deny Hillary another easy bit of “war on women” demagoguery about paternalism in the general election campaign. Cruz, whose brand rests on proving that he’s the most solid conservative in the race, is less worried about that than about the opportunity to show Republican voters that he’s further right than Rubio on yet another issue.


Why not a compromise: Make women eligible for the draft on the stipulation that their numbers will be called only when the population of draft-eligible males is exhausted? The idea of the draft coming back is fanciful to begin with; might as well just add an extra layer of nonsense by imagining a national emergency so dire that we run through tens of millions of young and middle-aged men in grappling with it. Exit question for con-law junkies: What good will a bill like this do if SCOTUS finds that gender discrimination in the draft violates equal protection? Isn’t it just a political talking point being handed by Lee to his friends Rubio and Cruz?

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