President Carter's bill to fund registration of young men for a possible military draft faces fierce opposition in the US Senate. Senate Republican leader Howard H. Baker Jr. of Tennessee, a supporter of draft registration, told newsmen april 23, "My guess is that it will have a tough time" when it reaches the Senate floor within a few days.
The House of Representatives gave the bill lukewarm approval by a 218-to-188 vote April 22.
A broad coalition of women, blacks, and liberals, being championed by Sen. Mark Hatfield (R) of Oregon, is determined to filibuster and eventually defeat the bill, which provides $13.3 million for registration.
If the President's supporters can get the bill through the Senate, 18 and 19 -year-old men will be required to visit their neighborhood post offices to fill out short registration forms this summer.
Defense Department manpower specialists say they believe the Senate is highly unlikely to put the registration of women back into the bill or to add the $500 million more needed to examine and classify young men. Floor votes in the House rejected these proposals and another to make registration voluntary.
The Senate armed services manpower and personnel subcommittee turned down the womens' registration issue April 17. This was separated from the funding of men's registration early in the long public debate.
Pentagon and Capitol Hill sources say Sen. william Cohen (R) of Maine and Sen. John Culver (D) of Iowa, the only two of the manpower subcommittee's seven members who favored women's registration, may lead a bipartisan effort to pass the men's registration money bill on the Senate floor.
President Carter and Defense Secretary Harold Brown opposed draft registration before the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan last December. Both Democrats and Republicans promised support for registration, which the President urged in his State of the Union speech Jan. 23, but this support in both parties has dwindled. Senator Hatfield and others have charged that registration is an empty gesture, aimed only at impressing the Soviets with US seriousness of purpose.
Pentagon manpower chief Robert Pirie and his staff take the position that is is important to be able to locate young people quickly if a wartime draft is needed. Registration they say, would reduce the time required to find, induct, and train up to a million additional young people who might be needed in an emergency.
Another school of thought, voiced by Rep. George Miller (D) of California, insists the President's declining popularity in polls motivates his continued support for this and other preparedness measures.
In 1979, the volunteer Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines together were only 31,000 short of their authorized strength of nearly 2 million. The Navy in particular reports dramatic increases in recent recruiting.