WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An influential Democratic lawmaker on Sunday called for reinstatement of the draft as a way to boost U.S. troop levels and draw a broader section of the population into the military or public service.
U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (news, bio, voting record), the incoming chairman of the House of Representatives' tax-writing committee, said he would introduce legislation to reinstate the draft as soon as the new, Democratic-controlled Congress convenes in January.
Asked on CBS' "Face the Nation" if he was still serious about the proposal for a universal draft he raised a couple of years ago, he said, "You bet your life. Underscore serious."
"If we're going to challenge Iran and challenge North Korea and then, as some people have asked, to send more troops to Iraq, we can't do that without a draft," he said.
Rangel, who opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, also said he did not think the United States would have invaded Iraq if the children of members of Congress were sent to fight. He has said the U.S. fighting force is comprised disproportionately of people from low-income families and minorities.
"I don't see how anyone can support the war and not support the draft. I think to do so is hypocritical," he said.
The New York Democrat had introduced legislation to reinstate the draft in January 2003 before the Iraq invasion. The Pentagon has said the all-volunteer army is working well and there is no need for a draft, and the idea had no traction in the Republican-led Congress.
Democrats gained control of both the House and Senate for the first time in 12 years in the November 7 election, and a wholesale change in the leadership of Congress is to be made in January. Rangel is to head the House Ways and Means Committee, which is charged with U.S. tax and trade legislation.
The draft was in place from 1948 to 1973, when the United States converted to an all-volunteer army. But almost all men living in the United States - including most male noncitizens - are required to register with the Selective Service upon reaching 18, and federal benefits, including financial aid for college studies, are contingent on registration.
Rangel said his legislation on the draft would also offer the alternative of a couple of years of public service with educational benefits.