House Majority Leader Jim Wright (D-Tex.) vowed yesterday to reverse the Appropriations subcommittee vote denying President Carter the money to begin draft registration.
"We are determined that the president shall not be denied or embarrassed," Wright told reporters in promising an all-out effort to persuade the full committee to approve the money.
On Wednesday, the Appropriations subcommittee voted 6 to 6 on a motion to appropriate the money for registration, thus blocking the measure at least for now.
Wright said the fight will be resumed next week within the 54-member parent committee chaired by Rep. Jamie L. Whitten (D-Miss.), who is backing the president.
Carter requested $2.19 million in supplemental funds for fiscal 1980 to register, starting this spring, men and women born in 1960 and 1961. But subcommittee Chairman Edward P. Boland (D-Mass.), with the consent of fellow members, cut the $8.5 million earmarked for registering women.
It was this reduced amount -- $13.4 million -- for registering men only and modernizing the Selective Service System that failed to pass muster as the subcommittee split 6 to 6.
"I personally regret the unrepresentitive action that occurred in the subcommittee," Wright said yesterday. "I have every confidence that funding for registering males will be approved next week by the full Appropriations Committee."
As several committee members see it, there will be three main options before them: (1) approve the full $21.9 million, adding language saying that the $8.5 million for registering women cannot spent unless an authorization bill is passed; (2) vote the $13.4 million for registering men only and beefing up Selective Service; (3) approve $4.7 million to finance the registration plan that Selective Service had recommended to the White House.
Rep. Lawrence Coughlin of Pennsylvania, ranking Republican on the Appropriations subcommittee, championed the third option in the heated session Wednesday. Boland, after his men-only registration motion failed 6 to 6, got the consent of fellow members to send the Coughlin measure to the full committee so it would have a vehicle for deciding the registration issue.
Coughlin said yesterday that time was on his side, contending that many House members do not yet realize that Carter rejected the plan his own Selective Service director recommended as the most efficient and least intrusive option.
In contrast to Carter's proposal to require 19- and 20-year-old men and women to register at their Post Offices this year, Selective Service said this step could safely await the declaration of a national emergency. Only seven days would be lost by waiting, it said.
Carter's plan, Coughlin complained, amounts to "misleading our people that we are doing something when we're not." The seven days' difference, he said, would be meaningless under any military circumstances and thus Carter's plan sends "no signal to the Soviets."
"The only people afraid of Carter's registration plan are our 18-year-olds," said Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.), who is working against Wright in the registration battle.