New legislation would prohibit president from launching nuclear strike without declaration of war from Congress
Close to 500,000 people have signed a petition, delivered to Congress on Wednesday, that urges lawmakers to take President Donald Trump’s finger off the nuclear button.
The petition supports the “Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act,” legislation introduced by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) that would prohibit Trump from launching a nuclear weapon without Congress first authorizing a declaration of war.
“No American president should be allowed to launch an unprovoked nuclear war,” Markey said at the press conference marking the petition delivery. “The Constitution gives the power to declare war to Congress, and we should not allow President Trump—or any president—to use nuclear weapons except in response to a nuclear attack against the U.S. or our allies.”
More than a dozen advocacy groups helped circulate the petition, from the anti-nuclear Peace Action to the democracy watchdog Public Citizen.
“It’s terrifying that Trump currently has unchecked authority to press the button to launch thousands of nuclear weapons at his command in a matter of moments,” said Tessa Levine, campaign manager for the action group CREDO, which also endorsed the petition. “Trump’s first 100 days have been marked by series of horrifying demonstrations of his recklessness and incompetence, we cannot trust Trump to make rational or informed decisions about the safety of our country and the world.”
“It’s time to take away Trump’s nuclear football,” Levine said.
Many highlighted the destructive power of modern weapons—especially when handed over to a president with a temper and a shaky grasp of geopolitics.
“Our Constitution created a government based on checks and balances and gave the power to declare war solely to Congress,” said Lieu. “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.”
“Furthermore, the single individual currently possessing the sole power to start WWIII is Donald J. Trump. The president has demonstrated a frightening ignorance of the nuclear triad, crowed about being ‘unpredictable’ with our nuclear arsenal, and taken to Twitter to make provocative statements about U.S. nuclear posture,” Lieu added. “The fate of humanity just may be at stake.”
Lillyanne Daigle, network campaigner for Global Zero, added, “One modern nuclear weapon is more destructive than all of the bombs detonated in World War II combined—yet there is no check on Trump’s ability to use the thousands of nuclear weapons at his command. His power to do so is absolute, and once he hits the proverbial red button there would be no take-backs.”
“That such devastating power is concentrated in one person is an affront to America’s founding principles,” Daigle said. “The proposed legislation is an important first step to reining in this autocratic system and making the world safer from nuclear catastrophe.”