It is unconscionable that any one person – no matter who it is– has the sole ability to end civilization as we know it. As it stands, President Trump can simply launch a nuclear weapon on a whim and no one can stop him.
In 2017, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Ca.) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Ma.), Co-President of GSI Program Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, decided to change that, and introduced H.R. 669 and S. 200, the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017.
The bill was co-sponsored by five Senators: Feinstein (CA), Franken (MN), Merkley (OR), Sanders (VT) and Van Hollen (MD). The Lieu bill has 81 co-sponsors; click here for a list.
The bill stated that:
“(1) The Constitution gives Congress the sole power to declare war.
“(2) The framers of the Constitution understood that the monumental decision to go to war, which can result in massive death and the destruction of civilized society, must be made by the representatives of the people and not by a single person.
“(3) As stated by section 2(c) of the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93–148; 50 U.S.C. 1541),‘‘the constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to
(1) a declaration of war,
(2) specific statutory authorization, or
(3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces’’.
(4) Nuclear weapons are uniquely powerful weapons that have the capability to instantly kill millions of people, create long-term health and environmental consequences throughout the world, directly undermine global peace, and put the United States at existential risk from retaliatory nuclear strikes.
(5) By any definition of war, a first-use nuclear strike from the United States would constitute a major act of war.
(6) A first-use nuclear strike conducted absent 5 a declaration of war by Congress would violate the Constitution.
The legislation would prohibit the President from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress.
Today Markey and Lieu , along with House Armed Services Ranking Member Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA), Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA), and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), introduced the Hold the LYNE—or Low-Yield Nuclear Explosive—Act. The legislation would ban the Defense Department from researching, developing, producing or deploying of a low-yield nuclear warheads for submarine-launched ballistic missiles, arguing it could fuel a dangerous arms race and hasten nuclear war.
The move came after Congress passed, and President Donald Trump signed,an appropriations package this month that applies $65 million to the program.
The bill has been endorsed by Arms Control Association, Global Zero, Union of Concerned Scientists, Ploughshares, Win Without War, and other nonproliferation advocates.
Jonathan Granoff is the President of the Global Security Institute, a representative to United Nations of the World Summits of Nobel Peace Laureates, a former Adjunct Professor of International Law at Widener University School of Law, and Senior Advisor to the Committee on National Security American Bar Association International Law Section.