Democratic efforts in Congress to take away nuclear first strike capabilities from President Donald Trump have received a rush of support from voters across the country worried that the president might order an attack in North Korea or elsewhere.
Roughly half a million people have signed a petition supporting a bill reintroduced by two Democrats that would require a declaration of war by Congress before the president could launch an unprovoked nuclear weapon. The president would still retain the power to launch a nuke if a foreign foe attacked first.
“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 authority to launch a nuclear first strike without congressional approval,” Senator Ed Markey, who introduced the bill alongside Representative Ted Lieu, said at a press conference.
Next to Mr Markey and Mr Lieu were 28 file boxes filled with the petitions.
“As long as President Trump has a Twitter account, we need a nuclear no-first-use policy for the United States of America,” Mr Markey said.
Tensions between the US and North Korea have escalated recently following several recent missile tests ordered by Pyongyang. Mr Trump warned that “major” conflict is possible should North Korea not curtain its nuclear program.
Limiting the president’s blanket authority to launch a nuclear weapon has been debated for a long time by those concerned that a president might make a call that leads to nuclear warfare without due care. There are virtually no checks on the president’s authority to order a nuclear missile launch — a policy supported by individuals who argue that the timeframe of a nuclear attack against the US would require the president to respond quicker than he would be able to if he needed to check in with Congress first.
Former President Barack Obama weighed the option of changing the office’s first strike policy but decided against it on the advice of officials.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the proposed legislation.