During the first presidential debate on Monday, Congressman Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles) didn’t like what he heard from Republican nominee Donald Trump on nuclear weapons. The congressman said he is worried that Trump, if elected, will have the power to launch a nuclear strike.
On Tuesday, Lieu and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) introduced the First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act, which would require Congress to declare war before the president can authorize the use of nuclear weapons.
“What he said at the debate adds further fuel to this legislation being necessary,” Lieu said. “We have a Republican nominee who has made disturbing remarks about nuclear warfare. [We saw] that Donald Trump is not fit to be commander and chief.”
The bill was being prepared prior to the debate, but Lieu said it speaks to the need for tighter regulations on when, and under what circumstances, nuclear weapons could be used.
“Our Founding Fathers would be rolling over in their graves if they knew the president could launch a massive, potentially civilization-ending military strike without authorization from Congress,” Lieu said. “Our Constitution created a government based on checks and balances and gave the power to declare war solely to the people’s representatives. A nuclear first strike, which can kill hundreds of millions of people and invite a retaliatory strike that can destroy America, is war. The current nuclear launch approval process, which gives the decision to potentially end civilization as we know it to a single individual, is flatly unconstitutional.”
Lieu said the legislation is supported by former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry and numerous organizations including the Ploughshares Fund, Women’s Action for New Directions and Physicians for Social Responsibility. Markey said giving the president the sole responsibility of launching a first strike nuclear attack puts citizens at risk.
“Nuclear war poses the gravest risk to human survival. Unfortunately, by maintaining the option of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict, U.S. policy increases the risk of unintended nuclear escalation,” Markey said. “The president should not use nuclear weapons except in response to a nuclear attack. This legislation enshrines this simple principle into law.”
The bill was introduced in Congress and will next be considered by committees in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. To increase the odds of enacting a law sooner than later, Lieu said he also plans to urge President Barack Obama to implement a “no first strike” policy.
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