Democrats Want To Limit Trump's Ability To Use Nukes

by Joseph D. Lyons
Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The Twitter president has the nuclear launch codes — a big worry for what seems to be half a million Americans. A group of organizations presented a petition to Congress Wednesday in support of the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act. It would restrict Donald Trump's ability to start a nuclear war without congressional approval, though it wouldn't limit his response to a nuclear attack from another country. The petition to keep Trump from using nuclear weapons has a remarkable 500,000 signatures as of now, and it's just the beginning of what could be a bipartisan congressional effort to limit the president's use of these deadly weapons.

Now, lawmakers who introduced the bill are using this public support to try and advance the bill. Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Rep. Ted Lieu of California, first introduced the act back in January. The two held a press conference on Wednesday and specifically pointed to Twitter as a reason to limit Trump's access to the weapons. "As long as President Trump has a Twitter account, we need a nuclear no-first-use policy for the United States of America," Markey said, standing next to 28 file-boxes filled with copies of the petition.

Trump may be the impetus of the new bill, but regardless of who the president is, lawmakers think the current law needs to change. As it is written now, the law gives the president the sole authority to launch an unprovoked nuclear attack. Markey said that's not acceptable:

This unconstrained power flies in the face of our Constitution, which gives Congress the sole and exclusive power to declare war. While it is vital for the president to have clear authority to respond to nuclear attacks on the United States, our forces or our allies, no president should have the power to launch a nuclear first strike without congressional approval.

The petition also mentioned that "no president" should have this power, but it's definitely seen such popular success given its wording about Trump. "While it should be inconceivable that any American president would conduct a nuclear first strike, President Trump’s past statements and erratic behavior make it imperative that we put checks and balances on nuclear launch authority," the petition, which was collected by a coalition of groups, reads.

The bill's co-sponsors, all Democrats, Rep. Barbara Lee of California, Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, and Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, were present at the press conference, according to The Hill. Organizers even handed out read "easy" buttons to show the ease with which Trump could start a nuclear strike.

Trump has, on Twitter, taken an opposing view, arguing that the United States should expand its nuclear arsenal. "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes," he tweeted in December. Given growing tension with North Korea and the country's continued nuclear tests, this is all the more vital.

This bill may not pass, but with so many Americans support of it, Congress should at least debate the matter.