Support grows for Markey/Lieu bill to restrict the President’s authority to use nuclear weapons

Concerns rise over President Trump's 'finger on the nuclear button'.

In phone call with Putin, President Trump undermines the New START agreement.

Concern is rising in the United States and globally to the reckless approach President Trump appears to have towards the potential use of nuclear weapons, and to arms control agreements.

This includes statements by President Trump about the possibility of using nuclear weapons against terrorists, and not ruling out the first-use of nuclear weapons in regional conflicts with other nuclear-armed States.

PNND Co-President Ed Markey speaking at the U.S. Senate with Senators Franken and Sanders, co-sponsors of the SANE (Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditure) Act.

PNND Co-President Ed Markey and House of Representatives member Ted W. Lieu have responded by launching an initiative to prohibit the U.S. President from launching a nuclear first-strike without specific authorization of the U.S. Congress

On January 24, the 71st anniversary of the first United Nations resolution on global nuclear disarmament, Senator Markey and Congressman Lieu introduced H.R. 669 and S. 200, the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017. The Acts received instant support from 15 other US legislators and from many of the US disarmament and arms control organisations.

Nuclear war poses the gravest risk to human survival,” said Senator Markey. “Yet, President Trump has suggested that he would consider launching nuclear attacks against terrorists. Unfortunately, by maintaining the option of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict, U.S. policy provides him with that power. In a crisis with another nuclear-armed country, this policy drastically increases the risk of unintended nuclear escalation.”

“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,” said Rep. Lieu, a member of the Committees on the Budget and Oversight & Government Reform. 

US Congressman Ted Lieu, sponsor of the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017.

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.

Global Zero, a global movement to eliminate nuclear weapons, last week announced their support for the Markey/Lieu initiative. Bruce Blair, a former nuclear missile control officer who is co-founder of Global Zero, cited the ‘reckless nuclear agenda’ of President Trump as a cause for extreme concern. This recklessness included the phone call between Presidents Trump and Putin last week, where President Trump is reported to have rejected the possibility of extending the New START treaty.

“It should worry everyone that the President understands so little about nuclear issues and a treaty that is so vital to the national security interests of the United States,” said Mr Blair. ‘The Treaty is a powerful restraint on Putin’s nuclear ambitions. Without it, there would nothing to prevent Russia from expanding its nuclear arsenal after 2021. That could trigger a dangerous nuclear arms race, one Trump recently promised to win no matter the cost.

Bruce Blair, Co-founder of Global Zero

“In the wake of the election, the American people are more concerned than ever about the terrible prospect of nuclear war — and what the next commander-in-chief will do with the proverbial ‘red button,’ said Derek Johnson, Executive Director of Global Zero. ‘That such devastating power is concentrated in one person is an affront to our democracy's founding principles. The proposed legislation is an important first step to reining in this autocratic system and making the world safer from a nuclear catastrophe.”

Senator Markey also responded directly to President Trump’s dismissal of New Start, in a press release on February 9, 2017. “The New START Treaty makes a vital contribution to U.S. national security by limiting the Russian nuclear weapons arsenal. That is why Secretary of State Rex Tillerson affirmed during his confirmation hearing his commitment to meet U.S. obligations under the treaty. If President Trump spoke with his own cabinet secretaries, he would know that nuclear arms control, and specifically the New START Treaty, strengthens American national security and preserves taxpayer dollars. Donald Trump’s uninformed nuclear rhetoric is dangerous rhetoric and will only increase the risk of nuclear war."

Other Support for the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017:

William J. Perry, Former Secretary of Defense – “During my period as Secretary of Defense, I never confronted a situation, or could even imagine a situation, in which I would recommend that the President make a first strike with nuclear weapons—understanding that such an action, whatever the provocation, would likely bring about the end of civilization.  I believe that the legislation proposed by Congressman Lieu and Senator Markey recognizes that terrible reality.  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.”

Tom Z. Collina, Policy Director of Ploughshares Fund – “President Trump now has the keys to the nuclear arsenal, the most deadly killing machine ever created. Within minutes, President Trump could unleash up to 1,000 nuclear weapons, each one many times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. Yet Congress has no voice in the most important decision the United States government can make. As it stands now, Congress has a larger role in deciding on the number of military bands than in preventing nuclear catastrophe.”

Megan Amundson, Executive Director of Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) – “Rep. Lieu and Sen. Markey have rightly called out the dangers of only one person having his or her finger on the nuclear button. The potential misuse of this power in the current global climate has only magnified this concern. It is time to make real progress toward lowering the risk that nuclear weapons are ever used again, and this legislation is a good start.”

Catherine Thomasson, MD, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility – "We must understand that our own nuclear weapons pose an unacceptable risk to our national security. The "successful" use of our own nuclear arsenal would cause catastrophic climate disruption around the world including here in the United States. These weapons are suicide bombs, and no one individual should have the power to introduce them into a conflict. The Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017 is an important step to lessen the chance these weapons will be used."

Jeff Carter, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility – "Nuclear weapons pose an unacceptable risk to our national security. Even a “limited” use of nuclear weapons would cause catastrophic climate disruption around the world, including here in the United States. They are simply too profoundly dangerous for one person to be trusted with the power to introduce them into a conflict. Grounded in the fundamental constitutional provision that only Congress has the power to declare war, the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017 is a wise and necessary step to lessen the chance these weapons will ever be used.”