WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans sought to quash a
persistent Internet rumor that the government will reinstate a
military draft after the election, engineering an overwhelming vote
yesterday to kill legislation they hope will put the rumor to rest
for good.

Republicans accused Democrats of feeding the rumor mill to scare
young voters and their parents into voting against President
Bush.

“This campaign is a baseless, malevolent concoction of the
Democratic Party and everyone in this chamber knows it,” said
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas.

The House voted 402 to 2 to defeat the draft bill offered last
year by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.).

Even Rangel urged Democrats to vote against the bill, and
charged Republicans were cynically trying to use the measure to
escape election-season questions about the war in Iraq.

Just two lawmakers, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) and Rep. Pete Stark
(D-Calif.) struck off on their own and voted for the measure.

“We are in a war, and not only a small segment of the
population should fight in that war,” Murtha said.

The specter of a wartime military draft like that of the Vietnam
era has lingered around the presidential campaign for the past few
weeks, fueled by an e-mail driven rumor mill and a campaign by Rock
the Vote, a nonpartisan group that seeks to boost voting among
young people.

The White House yesterday accused opponents of President Bush of
trying to scare voters with false rumors.

Much of the Internet gossip circling the Web has suggested that
Republicans, including the president, have a plan to
surreptitiously bring back the draft in a second Bush term.
Democrats say worries about it are spurring voter registration on
college campuses and among people in their 20s in urban areas.

“Everywhere they go on the Internet, all they see is the
draft, the draft, the draft,” said Rep. Jim McDermott
(D-Wash.) “The Rock the Vote effort among kids in this
country is afire and (Republicans) know it. They’re trying
their best to tamp down this fire.”

The Bush administration has strongly denied any plan to
reinstate the draft, but the denials have not killed the rumor.

“There are some who have tried to bring this up as a scare
tactic and that is highly unfortunate,” White House spokesman
Scott McClellan said yesterday. “The president does not
believe we need a draft and he’s made that repeatedly
clear.”

Speaking to Iowa voters Monday, Bush said, “We will not
have a draft so long as I am president of the United
States.”

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has suggested the
draft could be reinstated if voters re-elect Bush.

Kerry said his plan for Iraq, which calls for a summit and for
allies to share a greater part of the burden, would not need a
military draft.

Campaigning in Iowa yesterday, Kerry told reporters,
“I’ve never said they’re going to have a draft.
I’ve said I don’t know what they’re going to do.
I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to pursue a
policy that guarantees we don’t have a draft.”

Rock the Vote said it is raising the draft issue because the
presidential candidates haven’t addressed it.

“This is not an Internet rumor,” said Rock the Vote
spokesman Jay Strell. “Young people in America deserve an
honest and open debate about the possibility of a draft. Neither
side has offered up what they’re going to do to meet the
current and future military needs.”

Strell said his group’s website has seen a huge spike in
recent days in downloads of voter registration forms, now up to
about 40,000 a day.

The draft legislation scheduled for debate yesterday was
introduced by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y), a fierce critic of both
the Iraq war and the Bush administration.

“I would not advise anybody that’s running for
election as a Democrat to vote for this,” said Rangel, who
contended Republicans abused parliamentary standards to rush a vote
to the floor without hearings or discussion. “It’s a
prostitution of the legislative process,” he said.

The measure would require two years of military or civilian
service of men and women aged 18-26.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist ruled out consideration of a
companion bill in that chamber, saying, “To the leadership of
the United States Senate, it’s a non-issue and it’s one
that’s not going to be addressed.”

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