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Biden should give up sole nuke launch authority say nearly 3-dozen House Dems

Joe Biden. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
February 24, 2021

Nearly three dozen Democrat lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives want President Joe Biden to give up the sole authority vested in a U.S. president to authorize the launch of nuclear weapons.

In a letter drafted by Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), and obtained by Politico, dozens of members of Biden’s own political party called on him to give up that singular power to order nuclear strikes.

“Vesting one person with this authority entails real risks,” the letter reads. “Past presidents have threatened to attack other countries with nuclear weapons or exhibited behavior that caused other officials to express concern about the president’s judgment.”

During President Donald Trump’s term in office, Democrat lawmakers brought forth similar calls to limit Trump’s sole authority to order nuclear strikes. In Jauary of 2019, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced to prevent a U.S. president from ordering a nuclear first strike without first consulting Congress. In a press release announcing the bill, the two lawmakers referenced a statement made by Trump a year prior in which he responded to a threat from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Kim said his nuclear weapons can reach the west coast of the U.S. and that nuclear button is always on his desk, to which Trump replied, “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

In January, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reached out to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley “to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike.” Pelosi revealed she spoke to Milley out of concern Trump would be “unhinged” in his the final days of his presidential term.

In the latest effort to limit a U.S. president’s nuclear authority, the letter stated, “While any president would presumably consult with advisors before ordering a nuclear attack, there is no requirement to do so. The military is obligated to carry out the order if they assess it is legal under the laws of war. Under the current posture of U.S. nuclear forces, that attack would happen in minutes.”

The letter recommended a number of alternatives for Biden to consider for sharing his nuclear authority, such as sharing the authority with others in the presidential line of succession such the Vice President or Speaker of the House, “neither of whom can be removed by the president if they disagree — to concur with a launch order.”