Tacking draft registration onto the House defense money bill "was a sneaky bit of business like the Gulf of Tonkin resolution," Rep. John F. Seiberling (D-Ohio) charged yesterday in vowing to seek a separate vote on the registration issue.
The House Armed Services Committee last week added to the Pentagon's fiscal 1980 money bill language that would require males who become 18 after Dec. 31, 1980, to register with their draft boards.
"They are trying to make it look innocuous," said Seiberling of committee members who put the registration requirement into the defense authorization bill. He compared the move with the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which also was used by President Johnson to legitimize the Vietnam buildup, in both methods and long-range impact.
By imposing the registration requirement after the November 1980 election, Seiberling said in an interview, proponents are trying to position themselves so "they can blame the last Congress if they find the people don't like it."
Seiberling, who is the leader of a House coalition against resumption of the draft, contends that the registration is a backdoor approach to returning to conscription before it has been demonstrated that the current volunteer military is not working.
He and other House members, Seiberling said, will move to strip the registration requirement from the defense money bill when it goes to the House floor.
Anti-draft activists are mobilizing to postpone the House vote on registration until after Congress' Memorial Day recess to provide time to lobby congressmen in their home offices during the holidays.
In a meeting yesterday, leaders of a newly formed coalition called Committee Against Registration and the Draft (CARD) mapped strategy for removing the registration requirement.
Before seeking an amendment to kill the requirement outright, the coalition will ask allied House members to offer a series of unpopular amendments, including extending the registration requirement to women as well as men, raising the age of those who must register so many congressmen would be eligible and imposing the registration requirement in January 1980 before the November election.
Barry Lynn of the Office for Church in Society, chairperson of CARD, said yesterday that the draft registration requirement "is the cornerstone of conscription."
Backers of resuming draft registration contend it is merely a step to prepare for an emergency and does not constitute a step back toward the draft itself. The House Armed Services Commitee voted overwhelmingly for registration, while no Senate committee has acted on the issue.