REP LIEU URGES CHAIRMAN ROYCE TO HOLD HEARING ON PRESIDENT’S AUTHORITY TO LAUNCH NUKES
WASHINGTON - Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D - Los Angeles County) sent a letter to House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce calling for a hearing on the authority to order the use of nuclear weapons. In 2017, Rep. Lieu reintroduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation (H.R. 669) to underscore Congress’s role in deciding to launch a nuclear first strike, which is an act of war that only Congress can authorize. A hearing would provide the opportunity to debate this issue, particularly in light of President Trump’s statements about using that authority.
In the letter, Mr. Lieu writes:
- As you know, our Founders created a government based on checks and balances and designed a Constitution that 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 cripple America, is war. Yet under existing law, the president has unilateral authority to launch a nuclear attack. As President Nixon reportedly told a group of Congressmen during his administration, “I could leave this room and in 25 minutes 70 million people would be dead.”
- The threat of such unconstrained authority is not theoretical. On January 2, 2018, President Trump tweeted, “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” This statement came only months after he threatened North Korea in August 2017 with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
- The president’s remarks over the past year have raised bipartisan concern in Congress and among our community of national security experts. On November 14, 2017, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on “Authority to Order the Use of Nuclear Weapons.” That hearing was followed this month by an open letter to Congress from over a dozen former nuclear launch officers who wrote, “There are no reliable safeguards” on the president’s unilateral authority and that such authority “should not rest in the hands of any one person.” This position has also been echoed by a former Secretary of Defense, William J. Perry, who has stated, “Certainly a decision that momentous for all of civilization should have the kind of checks and balances on Executive powers called for by our Constitution.”
READ THE FULL TEXT OF THE LETTER HERE