Bill would  prevent any American president from launching a nuclear first strike without Congressional approval

Bill Text (PDF)

Washington (April 14, 2023) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), co-chair of the Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group, and Representative Ted Lieu (CA-33) today announced the reintroduction of the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act to prohibit any United States President from launching a nuclear strike without prior authorization from Congress. The legislation would also institute safeguards to prevent the president from introducing nuclear weapons in a conflict and reaffirm Congress’ singular constitutional authority to declare war. The reintroduction of Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act comes after a year of reckless nuclear threats from Russian President Vladimir Putin in his war of aggression against Ukraine. Fifty-four years ago this week, on April 15, 1969, North Korea shot down a U.S. military plane. According to top aides present at the time, an intoxicated President Richard Nixon allegedly ordered a nuclear strike in response. Thankfully, that order was disregarded and never carried out – however, it exposed the dangerous possibility of a rogue U.S. president ordering a nuclear strike without Congressional authorization.

“No president has the right or the constitutional authority to unilaterally declare war, let alone launch a nuclear first strike,” said Senator Markey. “In the face of Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats, Congress must pass the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act to reaffirm its authority and make clear to world leaders that the United States will uphold its commitment to peace, stability, and democracy.”

“Our founders established a system of checks and balances for a reason—no one person should have the ability to launch a war that would end life as we know it,” said Representative Lieu. “Congress alone has the constitutional duty to declare war, and decide whether a nuclear launch is necessary. In the wake of Russia’s unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine, and given the volatility of autocrats like war criminal Vladimir Putin, the threat presented by unpredictable use of nuclear weapons has never been clearer. I’m proud to join Senator Markey in reintroducing this important legislation, which will establish necessary guardrails to the President’s ability to launch nuclear weapons.”

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.

The Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act is endorsed by Physicians for Social Responsibility, Council for a Livable World, Foreign Policy for America, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Global Zero, Win Without War, and Ploughshares Fund.

In 2022, Senators Markey and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Representatives John Garamendi (CA-03) and Don Beyer (VA-08) led 51 of their colleagues in a letter to President Joe Biden urging the U.S. to reduce its reliance on nuclear weapons. On the one-year anniversary of the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the lawmakers condemned President Putin’s nuclear threats and Russia’s violation of the New START Treaty.