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Inside Politics

Pelosi says no to draft legislation

Story Highlights

• Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York proposes bringing back the draft
• Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she won't support a draft
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday the House Democratic Party leadership would not support a call by Rep. Charles Rangel to reinstate the draft.

Appearing Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation" and Monday on CNN, Rangel said he intends to introduce legislation early next year that would require the government to conscript young American men for military service.

All men between ages of 18 and 26 are already required to register for the draft with the Selective Service System. There has been no active draft since 1973, when the military converted to an all-volunteer force.

Rangel, incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, contended a draft would strengthen a military strained by missions around the world.

A longtime New York Democrat and Korean War veteran, Rangel said a draft would help keep America prepared for potential future action in Iraq, North Korea and Iran. (Watch Rangel promote a draft -- 2:33 Video)

"There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft, and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way," Rangel said Sunday. (Read your e-mails reacting to the proposed draft)

Appearing Monday on CNN's "The Situation Room," Rangel continued to make his case by saying that the U.S. is too strained in Iraq.

"What does this mean? You send the troops back five and six times. ...This is so totally unfair," Rangel said.

Rangel has introduced similar bills in the past that have failed. Before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, he proposed a draft for people between 18 and 26. Earlier this year, he proposed a mandatory military service for men and women 18 to 42.(Watch Rangel promise to introduce legislation -- 6:22 Video)

"Having our young people commit themselves to a couple [of] years in service of this great republic, whether it's our seaports, our airports, in schools, in hospitals -- and at the end of that to provide some educational benefits -- it's the best thing for our young people and the best thing for our country," Rangel said.

About 1.4 million men and women are on active duty in the U.S. military, not including reservists. There are only 500,000 ground combat troops -- 390,000 of them in Iraq, returning from Iraq or preparing for deployment to the country.

Some top Democrats say there's no chance a draft will be instituted.

Appearing Monday on CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight," Democratic Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri said his family has two members serving in the military and that Rangel is wrong to say those who enlist are from poor, disadvantaged families.

The incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Skelton said the all-volunteer system should not change.

"It's what works and what works well," he said. "You'd have to change the entire structure of the military [to institute a draft]."

Pelosi voiced her opposition after a meeting with incoming House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

She noted that a return to the draft is something Rangel has long championed to promote shared sacrifice.

"It's not about a draft; it's about shared sacrifice in our country," Pelosi told reporters in her Capitol Hill office.

"Mr. Rangel will be very busy with his work on the Ways and Means Committee, which jurisdiction is quite different, but he is a strong voice for social justice in our country," she said.

"And [pushing for a draft is] a way to make a point that this war has not involved or made any shared sacrifice."

When asked directly if she supported the measure, Pelosi said, "No. No."

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