Washington (September 27, 2016) – Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-CA-33) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) introduced the “Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016”. This legislation would prohibit the President from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress. The crucial issue of nuclear first use – discussed in last evening’s Presidential Debate – is all the more urgent given the fact that a majority of Americans do not trust Republican Nominee Donald Trump with our nation’s nuclear arsenal.
“Nuclear war poses the gravest risk to human survival. Unfortunately, by maintaining the option of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict, U.S. policy increases the risk of unintended nuclear escalation,” said Senator Markey, co-founder of the Congressional Bipartisan Task Force on Nonproliferation. “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.”
“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. “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. I am proud to introduce theRestricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016 with Sen. Markey to realign our nation’s nuclear weapons launch policy with the Constitution.”
A copy of the Senate legislation can be found HERE.
Praise for the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016
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 – “Current US nuclear policy is undemocratic and unconstitutional. In the realm of nuclear weapons, the United States is closer to a dictatorship than a democracy. The President has absolute authority to use nuclear weapons, and Congress has been cut out. It is time to bring democracy to nuclear policy, and Rep. Lieu and Sen. Markey’s bill moves us in that direction.”
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.”