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Christensen's Draft Bill Sponsorship Explained

Oct. 22, 2004 – Delegate Donna M. Christensen's name is being bandied about the Internet, mainly on pro-President George W. Bush Web sites, because of a recent U.S. House of Representatives vote to institute the draft. The bill is titled the Universal National Service Act.
It calls for all people aged 18 to 26 in the United States, including women, to serve in the military or perform a period of civilian service for two years.
The House voted down the bill on Oct. 5 with only two representatives voting yes.
"It was brought up intentionally to be defeated," Christensen aide Brian Modeste said Friday.
Christensen was one of 14 representatives who joined primary sponsor Rep. Charles Rangel of New York in putting their names on the bill.
"Not because she supports the draft, but because she supports the troops," Modeste said of her co-sponsorship.
He said the bill was introduced Feb. 3, 2003, when stories about insufficient troops for the Iraq war began to surface, but it saw no action.
The October vote was part of the political gamesmanship played in Washington, D.C. It was put on the House calendar by the Republicans without benefit of public hearings. It was placed on what is called the Suspension Calendar, which is usually reserved for non-controversial items like the naming of a post office, Rangel said in a press release he issued just in advance of the vote Oct. 5.
In the release, Rangel called it "a political maneuver to kill rumors of the President's intention to reinstate the draft after the November election."
He said the House needed to hear more about manpower needs, recruitment and retention and the extent to which troops are overextended.
Rangel called it "hypocrisy of the worst kind." He urged his fellow representatives to vote no.
California Rep. Pete Stark, one of the two representatives to vote yes, called it a political charade. He was a co-sponsor of the bill.
He said in a news release that he voted yes because reinstating the draft with no deferments and no exceptions is both fair and democratic.
"It will mean that Americans of every background will serve our country, not just the poor and disadvantaged as it is today. It will mean that our troops, reservists and members of the Guard won’t be forced into extended deployments well after their tours are up," he said in a statement on his Web site.
The second representative to vote yes, Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, had no statement on his Web site, but Modeste said he is a conservative Democrat who supports the military.
Modeste said he does not believe the draft issue will surface again before the election.
"But after the election, all bets are off," he said.
He said he's heard that the infrastructure is already in place to initiate the draft if a bill passes the U.S. Congress.
In these weeks leading up to the Nov. 2 presidential election, anything seems to go on the Internet as the candidates jockey for votes.
"This election, the Internet and blogging are spreading information that could be helpful or harmful to either candidate," Modeste said.
He said the Republicans brought up the draft bill because they accused Bush's opponent, Sen. John Kerry, of spreading information that Bush would institute the draft.

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