Dems tie nuclear first-strike bill to concerns about Trump
Two Democrats are pushing a bill that would bar the president from launching a nuclear strike without prior approval from Congress, tying it to concerns about Donald Trump having control of nukes.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), who introduced the House version of the bill Tuesday, voiced concerns about Trump's comments on nuclear weapons at Monday night's first presidential debate.
“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 in a statement.
During Monday night’s debate, Trump was asked whether he supports America’s longstanding policy that keeps the option of a first nuclear strike on the table amid reports that President Obama considered changing the policy.
“I would certainly not do first strike,” the GOP presidential nominee said, before adding a few sentences later: “At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can't take anything off the table.”
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton did not address the issue of a first strike, instead slamming Trump on his disparagement of mutual defense treaties with countries such as Japan and South Korea.
In the press release Tuesday, Lieu’s office cited a Public Policy Polling survey released after the debate that said 51 percent of voters do not trust Trump with nuclear weapons, compared with 42 percent who do trust him.
The same poll found 56 percent trust Clinton with nuclear weapons, compared with 35 percent who do not.
Lieu said the current first-strike policy is unconstitutional since it is Congress’s responsibility to declare war.
“Our Constitution created a government based on checks and balances and gave the power to declare war solely to the people’s representatives,” he said. “A nuclear first strike, which can kill hundreds of millions of people and invite a retaliatory strike that can destroy America, is war.”
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the bill’s Senate sponsor, added that the current policy runs the risk of unintended nuclear escalation and that the bill comes at a "critical time in our nation's history."
“Nuclear war poses the gravest risk to human survival,” Markey said in a written statement. “The President should not use nuclear weapons except in response to a nuclear attack. This legislation enshrines this simple principle into law. I thank Rep. Lieu for his partnership on this common-sense bill during this critical time in our nation’s history.”