The House yesterday approved, 218 to 188, President Carter's plan to register 19- and 20-year-old males now for possible military service.
Carter already has authority to order registration, but he needs money to carry it out. The bill, which now able $13,295,000 to compile a list of about 4 million youths would be available for duty.
The president had wanted to register both men and women, but his request for authority to register women died in the House Armed Services Committee. An attempt by Rep. Robert B. Duncan (D-Ore.) to require registration of both sexes with language in the appropriations bill was rejected by a voice vote.
Rep. Robert E. Bauman (R-Md.) also lost, 363 to 45, in attempt to expand the program to a $500 million project that would not only compile a list of names but also classify those registering through physical examinations to learn how many would be able to serve. Bauman said Carter's decision only to register youths as a response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was "just another Carter gesture and a very weak gesture at that."
The bill had a rough trip through th House Appropriations Committee where it failed on a tie vote in subcommittee and then squeaked through the full committee last week, 26 to 23.
Carter has asked for registration of young people now as part of the nation's response to Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It was intended to show American resolve not to let the Soviets overrun the Persian Gulf region.
The issue debated by the House was whether registration would send a clear signal and would save substantial time if mobilization were need, or whether it was a meaningless act that would needlessly stir a new round of dissension among young people.
Opponents said it would save only five days in sending draftees off to training camp in case of hostilities. Supporters said the time saved could range up to 90 days.
Opponents recalled the administration's opposition to pre-mobilization registration until Afghanistan. A Selective Service report had called registration now the least cost-effective and most intrusive option.
Opponents also contended that the Soviet Union would know that registration alone was noit a meaningfulmilitary preparedness step but that Americans might be lulled into a false sense of security.
They also noted that millions of Americans were registered in a single day before World War I and II. And they said registration lists of 19- and 20-year-old youths would soon be obsolete because half would move and many fail to report the change of address.
Supporters said it was important to back the president, even though registration was only a first step. Rep. Edward P. Boland (D-Mass.), managing the bill, called it "absolute nonsense" to say that millions could be registered in a day. It was done before only after months of planning, he said.
Several opponents called registration a first step toward resumption of the military draft, which ended in 1972 in favor of all-volunteer forces. Rep. Samuel S. Stratton (D-N.Y.), strong supporters of the bill, said the reason Congress was debating only registration was that this was all Congress could be expected to pass in an election year. "Of course, we need classification and some training," he said.
Opponents said they expect draft legislation to be sent up next year after the elections, although proponents deny registration will lead inevitably to a peacetime draft.
"We're back to the old shell game of lying to the people," said Rep. Parren J. Mitchell (D-Md.). "This is a first step toward a draft."