If the possibility of being drafted into the armed forces has been keeping you up at night, rest easy. On Tuesday the House of Representatives arranged a political funeral for a bill that could have reinstated the draft, laying it to rest with an overwhelming 402-2 vote.
The bill, HR 163, would've required all men and women between ages 18-26 to serve at least two years of military or civilian service. Republicans brought it to a hasty vote in an effort to quell rumors that the Bush administration was secretly planning to revive the draft.
Lawmakers engaged in a contentious 40-minute debate, during which Democrats accused GOP Representatives of forcing the vote for political purposes while the troops are stretched thin abroad.
"All of the evidence indicates that we have exhausted our active troops," New York Democrat Charles Rangel said during the debate. "We are exhausting the Reserves; we are exhausting the National Guard."
Rangel introduced the bill in January 2003, but it had stalled in a House committee. He went on to explain that if the war continues without a draft in place, there will be no way to ensure that the burden of service will fall equally on Americans of all backgrounds, because those who volunteer tend to be from lower-income families.
"There should be a plea for the rich and the poor, which is so eloquently stated but not followed, to be volunteering and joining and having the honor to say they defended our country at a time of war," argued Rangel, who himself voted against the bill.
But Republicans, who in the weeks leading up to the election have been feeling the heat from increased chatter about a new draft, moved quickly to vote. Defeating the bill, they hoped, would be the final nail in the coffin of Internet rumors circulated over the summer, detailing Bush's plans to resurrect the draft in a second term.
The president sought to distance himself from the bill during a campaign stop in Iowa on Tuesday. Bush reasserted his position that the United States "will not have a draft so long as I am president."
Kerry has also declared he has no plans to reinstate the draft, but his camp has been accused of feeding the rumor mill in hopes of scaring young people and their parents from voting for Bush. While campaigning in Iowa on Tuesday, Kerry told reporters, "I've never said they're going to have a draft. I've said I don't know what they're going to do. I know what I'm going to do. I'm going to pursue a policy that guarantees we don't have to have a draft."
Despite the defeat of HR 163, some critics still see the debate as far from over. "The question is not if we want to have a draft, but whether or not current and future requirements will ultimately necessitate a draft," Rock the Vote President Jehmu Greene said in a statement released just before the House took up the issue.