S.C. Republicans in Congress weigh in on drafting women in the military

U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford is against the announcement made Tuesday by top Army and Marine Corps officials that women should have to register for Selective Service.

WASHINGTON — Republicans in the South Carolina congressional delegation already had questions about how the military planned to integrate women into expanded combat roles. Now they want answers on a new directive to make women eligible for the draft.

U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford is coming out strongly against the announcement made on Tuesday by top Army and Marine Corps officials that women should have to register for Selective Service.

He told The Post and Courier on Wednesday he planned to challenge the new directive at his next legislative opening.

“I’m not on the Armed Services Committee,” Sanford said, “but we will have a couple different bites at the apple on the defense funding bill coming up, and I will look for ways for being active there.”

Sanford was referring to the annual bill Congress must pass authorizing funding for programs and activities related to the Department of Defense. The House in recent years has allowed members to debate hundreds of amendments to that bill as long as they are relevant, and this would be Sanford’s best chance to take a stand.

“You can’t set an impossible standard long enough and expect it to hold in the world of politics,” said Sanford, who in December published an op-ed in The Post and Courier accusing President Barack Obama of “rushing to stack up perceived political wins while (he) can” by exposing women to combat positions typically reserved only for men.

Sanford’s congressional district includes the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island, which before the 2012 redistricting fell in Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson’s domain.

Wilson, of the 2nd District in the middle part of the state, wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Tuesday asking for clarification on the Army’s plans to phase women into new military posts. Wilson didn’t address the issue of the draft, though he broached it in an interview a day later.

“I represented Parris Island, that’s where female Marines are trained. When I go to embassies around the world, there will be female Marines stationed there, and I like to tell them, ‘I know where you were trained,’ ” said Wilson. “And there is entry level training in Fort Jackson for the Army, and the majority of female recruits come through Colombia, and so we know how good it is to have this opportunity.

“They serve with great distinction,” he said of the servicewomen he’s met over the years. “But that does not mean we need to have a draft.”

U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, a Republican of the 3rd District in the Upstate didn’t mince words Wednesday.

“Quite honestly, if women want equality in the military to serve in the frontline units, they ought to be willing to do all the things that men are required to do, and that’s including the draft,” he said. “I think America is probably going to rethink this issue at some point, women serving in frontline combat units. When body bags start coming home with the bodies of wives and daughters, I believe America will change their tune on this.”