WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Tuesday against a bill to reinstate the military draft, a tool that had been used by Democrats to point out the inherent inequality of volunteer service.
The House voted 2-402 against suspending the debate and moving toward passage, meaning that the bill could be debated in perpetuity. The procedural motion is an action that prompts the sponsor of the legislation to pull it out of consideration.
Rep. Charles B. Rangel (search), D-N.Y., introduced the legislation in January 2003 in an effort to highlight what he saw as an ill-prepared and ill-advised Iraq policy. Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (search), D-S.C., pushed a similar bill in the Senate.
The legislation in both chambers declares that it is the obligation of every U.S. citizen and resident between the ages of 18 and 26 to perform a two-year period of national service.
GOP leaders said that Rangel and Hollings introduced the bills with the sole intent of scaring people in an election season.
"This campaign is a baseless and malevolent concoction of the Democrat Party, and everyone in this chamber knows it. It has one purpose — to spread fear. To spread fear among an unsuspecting public, to undermine the War on Terror, to undermine our troops, to undermine our cause, and most of all, to undermine our commander in chief in an election year," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas.
The bills have lain dormant for nearly two years, but e-mails widely circulated on college campuses, which claimed that the Bush administration was trying to secretly revive the draft, prompted House Republicans to quash the issue by calling for a vote.
"Clearly these bills are filed not by Republicans, not on behalf of the administration, but by those who are being partisan Democrats about this and trying to scare people," said Sen. John Cornyn (search), R-Texas.
Rangel, however, did not act like he was kidding. He has been a vocal proponent of the draft, claiming that only mandatory national service would alleviate what he says are disproportionate numbers of working-class people and members of minority groups serving in the military.
"I believe in the draft and ... shared sacrifice," Rangel said.
Rangel himself voted against the bill, though he could argue that the procedural rules that guided the vote, which would have required a two-thirds approval, forced him to oppose it. However, Rangel has acknowledged that the legislation was also devised to arouse more controversy and debate about the war in Iraq, which was only in the planning stages when the bill was introduced.
"It's a wake-up call as to the sincerity that people have to supporting the war," Rangel said. "If they believe in the war, they should be able to say that everyone's family should be prepared to make the sacrifice."
Rangel suggested that the threat of a draft could move public support away from the administration's Iraq policy.
"If the American people don't support it, they're not going to support the draft," Rangel said. "And the administration is going to have to take a different look as to how you get rid of evil people."
Earlier Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said regardless of the political game played in the House, he had no intention of bringing the debate to the Senate floor.
"I can tell you it's not going to be addressed in the United States Senate. It is a non-issue and is not going to be addressed," Frist said.
The vote, which shows Republicans en bloc voting against any effort to bring back the draft, could help shut down Internet rumors that the Bush administration had a secret plan to reinstate the draft. The White House had said Bush would veto the measure if it passed.
FOX News' Jim Mills and Julie Asher contributed to this report.