REP LIEU AND SEN MARKEY REINTRODUCE BILL TO LIMIT PRESIDENT’S ABILITY TO LAUNCH NUCLEAR FIRST STRIKE

January 29, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) and Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) announced the reintroduction of legislation to prevent the president from launching a nuclear first strike without congressional approval. Rep. Lieu and Sen. Markey announced the reintroduction of the “Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2019” (H.R.669/S.200) at a press conference today alongside nuclear arms control leaders, who urged Congress to take action to prevent nuclear war.

“Trump’s brand is to be unpredictable and rash, which is exactly what you don’t want the person who possesses the nuclear football to be,” Rep. Lieu said. “We introduced this bill under the Obama Administration but Trump’s Presidency has highlighted just how scary it is that any president has the authority to launch a nuke without Congressional consultation. I believed in 2016 what I still believe now: launching a weapon that has the power to instantly kill millions of people is an obvious act of war. Regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, Congress has the constitutional duty to decide when a nuclear first strike is warranted. As we’re now coming to realize, we could be one tweet that insults the president away from catastrophe.”

“No American President, and certainly not Donald Trump, should have the power to launch a first use nuclear first strike absent such an attack without explicit Congressional approval,” Sen. Markey said. “It would be immoral, it would be disproportionate, and it could only be considered an act of war – something our morals and our Constitution make clear no single person should be able to do alone. I thank Rep. Lieu for his continued partnership on the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act, and we will continue to work with our colleagues to get this critical legislation passed.”

Support for the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2019:

Ploughshares Fund Director of Policy Tom Collina:

"The risk of having nuclear weapons ready to launch within minutes, on the president’s sole authority, outweighs any perceived benefits. This system is unsafe, undemocratic and unnecessary. It must be fixed. Thank you Senator Markey and Congressman Lieu for your leadership. We need Congress to act now more than ever."

Union of Concerned Scientists Washington Representative Stephen Young:

“Giving the president the sole authority to start a nuclear war – using one or even hundreds of nuclear weapons first -- is quite literally the most dangerous policy possible. The explicit goal of that policy is to make global annihilation feasible in less than an hour. I wish I were exaggerating. I am not. While the policy is intended to serve as a deterrent, the reality is it leads to the current situation, where a fit of temper by the president could end the world. It is time to change that policy. The bill we are discussing here today would do just that.”

Arms Control Association Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball:

"The legislation introduced by Sen. Markey and Congressman Lieu has kicked off a long-overdue conversation about outdated Cold War-era nuclear use policies that give the president sole authority to initiate a nuclear conflict. Not only is this policy undemocratic and dangerous, it is unnecessary. Especially given the overwhelming conventional military edge of the United States and its allies, there is no plausible circumstance that could justify—legally, morally, or militarily—the use of nuclear weapons to deal with a non-nuclear threat."

Peace Action (formerly SANE/Freeze) Senior Director of Policy and Political Affairs Paul Kawika Martin:

"Our nation’s nuclear command and control structure is a massive security liability.  No rational human being would ever say, ‘let’s take the most destructive force known to humanity and give one person the authority to unleash it on the world at a moment’s notice,’ but unfortunately that is the current U.S. policy.  Thankfully, Senator Ed Markey and Representative Ted Lieu have authored common-sense legislation to prevent this president, and future presidents, from launching a nuclear first strike without congressional approval.”

Program Manager of Women Legislators Lobby (WiLL) at WAND Samantha Blake:

“In 2018, 10 resolutions were introduced across the nation by women state legislators calling on their members of Congress to constrain the President’s nuclear authority. Women have been stepping up on behalf of humanity since the first arms race-- and we will be there until no one has to live under the constant fear of nuclear annihilation.  As a young person, I know this threat isn’t one from our history books. It’s too easy for our generation to write it off as a thing of the past, but it’s more real than it has been in decades; that’s why WAND supports this legislation and is grateful for Senator Markey and Representative Lieu for introducing.”

Win Without War Advocacy Director Erica Fein:

"According to a new poll, nearly half of all Americans report they have no confidence 'at all' in Donald Trump; yet, because of our deeply flawed and dangerous system, if the president decides to launch a nuclear weapon, no one can stop him. It is high time for Congress to add a check on this or any future president’s ability to start a nuclear war."

VoteVets Director of Government Relations Will Fischer:

“As the law is currently written, the president of the United States has carte blanche authority to launch nuclear weapons as a first strike. No single person should possess such power, especially not someone as capricious as Donald Trump.”

Beyond the Bomb Director Cecili Thompson Williams:

“Donald Trump is a walking, talking case for dismantling a system that relies so completely on the judgment, temperament and emotional state of one person. It is profoundly undemocratic and dangerous. This president has taken us closer to the brink of nuclear war than we have been in generations, and it’s time for Congress to urgently intervene. The Markey-Lieu bill, which would force Trump to seek a Congressional declaration of war before launching a nuclear first strike - is an important step toward reigning in the President’s ability to start a war that could end life on this planet as we know it - and buy our country some time to pursue other critical reforms that overturn the unjust, undemocratic U.S. nuclear system. It’s time to start walking back from the brink, and the Markey-Lieu bill does just that.”

Federation of American Scientists Director of Nuclear information Project and Associate Senior Fellow to SIPRI Hans M. Kristensen:

"No single person should have the ability to launch a nuclear first strike. The Federation of American Scientists supports the effort to limit the ability of President Donald Trump or any U.S. president to launch a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress."

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