A House Armed Services subcommittee yesterday rejected by the decisive vote of 8 to 1, President Carter's request for authority to register women for the draft.
The action came as the president's allies sought a way to provide $13.3 billion for men-only registration.
That money is caught beneath the congressional budget ceiling, but its backers hope that they can get it by transferring money from a Pentagon account.
But even if that maneuver is successful, the American Civil Liberties Union said yesterday that it would challenge any mem-only program in court.
The vote on registering women -- by the military personnel subcommittee -- is the first formal expression of congressional sentiment on the issue and effectively kills the proposal for this year.
In the unlikely event some member tries to resurrect the bill killed yesterday, there are not the votes for this, either in the parent committee or on the House floor.
President Carter has asked for legislation to enable him to register women, declaring on Feb. 12: "Equity is achieved when both men and women are asked to serve in proportion to the ability of the armed forces to use them effectively."
Rep. G. V. (Sonny) Montgomery (D-Miss.), in making the motion yesterday to table the female registration bill, said: "We don't need women" to meet combat requirements.
Authorizing them to be registered for the draft, he contended, would be "the first step" over the present fire-break between supporting combat operations and engaging in them. "It would further push them into combat roles."
Montgomery last year championed a bill to register 18-year-old males. Carter opposed that bill on the ground registration before a national emergency occurred was not necessary.
Subcommittee chairman Richard C. White (D-Tex.) said: "The purpose of registration is to develop a reservior to be called up and trained within four months for replacements. It's not expected that women would be placed in combat. Therefore, I see no need to register women."
Joining Montgomery and White in voting against female draft registration were Reps. Marjorie S. Holt (R-Md.), Abraham Kazen Jr. (D-Tex.), Lucien N. Nedzi (D-Mich.), Bill Nichols (D-Ala.), David C. Treen (R-La.) and Elwood Hills (R-Ind.).
In casting the lone vote for the bill, Delegate Antonio Borja Won Pat of Guam said "women must have equal rights with men." By requiring women to register for the draft along with men, he reasoned, the government would have "a mechanism to know what we have" available for filling military requirements.
Immediately after the 8-to-1 vote was cast, David Landau said that the American Civil Liberties Union he represents would challenge mem-only registration on grounds that it violated the equal protection right in the Constitution.
"The ACLU is already preparing its case," he said.
Carter does not need congressional legislation to carry out his plan to require 19- and 20-year-old males to register this year. He can do this by executive order. But he does need the $13.3 million in fiscal 1980 supplemental funds for the Selective Service to do it.
Whether the president will get that money from Congress is uncertain for both political and budgetary reasons.
A House Appropriations subcommittee, on an 8-to-8 vote, refused to approve the $13.3 million for men-only registration. House leaders claim they now have 34 votes, enough to overturn that subcommittee action when the 54-member Appropriations Committee meets on the Selective Service supplemental.
However, House leaders also acknowledge that appropriating $13.3 million for Selective Service would break through the fiscal 1980 budget ceiling Congress imposed on itself. Therefore, Appropriations Committee staffers are trying to get that amount through a transfer from another department or agency, with the Pentagon the No. 1 target.
The idea is to send a resolution to the House floor calling for the transfer of $13.3 million from some Pentagon account that spends money at the same rate as the Selective Service. This way, both budget authority and spending totals would not be raised in financing men-only draft registration.