That’s how the defense bill that the House voted on on the evening of May 18 came to contain no language expanding the Selective Service. But that may not alter the ultimate result. Hunter and Thornberry were concerned about jurisdiction—they don’t think the president should be able to hand down major defense policy changes like gender integration of the combat arms without their review. But by scrubbing the issue from the docket, they may have left it to be decided by the courts, which are even now considering whether the end of the combat ban for women makes “deferential treatment” in Selective Services registration unconstitutional.
Also, the Senate’s version of the defense-funding bill still contains the draft expansion. Somehow, both houses of Congress have to agree on an identical bill. And once they do, then there’s a good chance President Obama will veto it over a separate funding fight anyway: The House bill appropriates the funds marked for foreign wars to keep bases that the Pentagon wants to shutter open, and the White House has already threatened to send it back unsigned.
But no matter what happens to the defense-funding bill, it appears likely that the gender integration of the military will proceed. Women have served in many military roles for a long time, and proven that they are capable of passing the same rigorous physical and mental tests men do.
Shortly before Hunter offered his self-defeating amendment, Army Captain Kristen Griest became the first woman to pass the qualification course that was her final hurdle to taking command of an infantry unit. That was a major event, but the milestones are so frequent now that it’s impossible to keep track of all but the biggest ones.
On May 17, the same day the House was using the parliamentary dark arts to kill the draft expansion for the time being, the Senate confirmed Eric Fanning as Secretary of the Army. He is the first openly gay head of a service, and that’s a big deal. Less than five years before, on July 20, 2011, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed, and Americans stopped having to choose between lying and serving.
On May 15, Air Force General Lori Robinson became the first woman to lead one of the nation’s most important combat commands, namely NORAD. As the Dan Eliot of the Associated Press noted, “None of the officials mentioned during the ceremony that Robinson is the first woman to lead a U.S. combatant command. Instead, the focus was her abilities and the service of her predecessor.”