Nuke rebuke: Bill requires declaration of war before Trump can launch nuclear attack
Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Representative Ted Lieu of California introduced the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017 on Tuesday, which Lieu’s office said was “more urgent than ever now that President Donald Trump has the power to launch a nuclear war at a moment’s notice.”
The bill requires a congressional declaration of war before the president can launch a nuclear weapon, except in defense against an incoming nuclear attack. Specifically designated in the Constitution, the Congress’s power to declare war is widely regarded as a relic in Washington, DC, as the legislative branch has only authorized, or abdicated, the power to go to war since World War II.
As far as nukes go, however, there have been attempts in recent years to rein in the executive branch’s control over aggressive military operations. The Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Ploughshares Fund are among the groups supporting this legislation.
“Nuclear war poses the gravest risk to human survival. Yet, President Trump has suggested that he would consider launching nuclear attacks against terrorists,” Sen. Markey said in a statement on Tuesday. “Unfortunately, by maintaining the option of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict, U.S. policy provides him with that power. In a crisis with another nuclear-armed country, this policy drastically increases the risk of unintended nuclear escalation. Neither President Trump, nor any other president, should be allowed to use nuclear weapons except in response to a nuclear attack.”
Last month, Trump controversially tweeted that there could be a nuclear “arms race” between Russia and the US. Trump also received some criticism from both sides of the debate over US nuclear weapons policy, when he vowed during a Republican primary debate in September not to launch a “first strike.” He added, “At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can't take anything off the table.”
Markey and Lieu introduced their bill immediately following those September remarks, but brought it up again in the first week of Trump becoming president, receiving more press coverage. The bill has support from former Defense Secretary William Perry as well as five other prominent pro-disarmament groups.