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Top US House Democrats to bar military draft plan

Written by: Staff
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WASHINGTON, Nov 20 (Reuters) A reinstatement of the military draft, being pushed by a senior Democrat, will not be slated for consideration in the US House of Representatives, the chamber's newly elected top leaders said today.

''We did not include that'' in legislative plans for early next year, said Democratic Representative. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who will be House majority leader when the new Congress convenes in January under Democratic control for the first time in 12 years.

New York Democratic Representative. Charles Rangel, who is in line to chair the House Ways and Means Committee next year, has renewed his call for the draft, saying the war in Iraq is being fought by American soldiers who disproportionately are from low-income families and minorities.

Over the weekend, Rangel said he would seek passage next year of the universal draft legislation he has long sought. ''If we're going to challenge Iran and challenge North Korea and then, as some people have asked, to send more troops to Iraq, we can't do that without a draft,'' Rangel said on CBS' ''Face the Nation'' yesterday.

Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California told reporters today that she does not support reinstating the draft, which was suspended in 1973 near the end of the Vietnam War and replaced by the all-volunteer army.

As Ways and Means panel chairman, Rangel will have a significant role in US tax and health-care policy. That post will not necessarily give Rangel an effective forum for pursuing his military draft legislation, Pelosi observed.

Instead, Pelosi said Rangel was trying to underscore that the US war effort should be a ''shared sacrifice'' and his legislation was ''a way to make that point.'' Previewing next year's legislative agenda, Pelosi emphasized pocketbook issues, saying Democrats will try to ease the ''middle-class squeeze.'' ''We want to take the country in a new direction, not just for privileged America,'' Pelosi said in a jab to President George W Bush's Republicans who had been in control of Congress.

Among Democrats' top priorities are increasing the minimum wage, expanding aid for college education and further lowering prescription drug costs for senior citizens.

REUTERS SP KP2337

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