The “button” can morph into a perverse temptation for an unstable leader. In 1974, during his impeachment proceedings, President Richard M. Nixon said to reporters: “I can go into my office and pick up the telephone, and in 25 minutes, 70 million people will be dead.”
Looking back, looking forward
Worried about Nixon’s state of mind, the U.S. Defense Secretary Schlesinger ordered that he be notified before any nuclear launch order from Nixon was executed.
Since that time, the question of presidential fitness and authority to launch first-use nuclear weapons has continued to be debated. New legislative proposals in 2016 will act to put in place limits on the U.S. president’s singular authority to order the launch of nuclear weapons.
‘Trump could launch 140 warheads in the time it takes to write 140 characters.’
‘President Trump is able to launch, within minutes, one or one thousand nuclear warheads without any vote, any check, or even any serious deliberation.’
Trump’s comments on nuclear weapons rattle U.S. officials and foreign leaders
Time to Take Nuclear Weapons Off ‘Hair-Trigger’ Alert
Reconsider First Use of Nuclear Weapons
CONGRESSMAN LIEU & SENATOR MARKEY INTRODUCE THE RESTRICTING FIRST USE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS ACT
Upon introduction of this legislation, Mr. Lieu issued the following statement:
“Our Founding Fathers would be rolling over in their graves if they knew the President could launch a massive, potentially civilization-ending military strike without authorization from Congress. Our Constitution created a government based on checks and balances and gave the power to declare war solely to the people’s representatives. 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. I am proud to introduce the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016 with Sen. Markey to realign our nation’s nuclear weapons launch policy with the Constitution.”
Upon introduction of this legislation, Senator Markey issued the following statement:
“Nuclear war poses the gravest risk to human survival. Unfortunately, by maintaining the option of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict, U.S. policy increases the risk of unintended nuclear escalation. The President should not use nuclear weapons except in response to a nuclear attack. This legislation enshrines this simple principle into law. I thank Rep. Lieu for his partnership on this common-sense bill during this critical time in our nation’s history.”
Praise for the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016
William J. Perry, Former Secretary of Defense – “During my period as Secretary of Defense, I never confronted a situation, or could even imagine a situation, in which I would recommend that the President make a first strike with nuclear weapons—understanding that such an action, whatever the provocation, would likely bring about the end of civilization. I believe that the legislation proposed by Congressman Lieu and Senator Markey recognizes that terrible reality. Certainly a decision that momentous for all of civilization should have the kind of checks and balances on Executive powers called for by our Constitution.”
Acting Now to Prevent Nuclear First Use
Strategic Demands presents forward-looking legislative action
A Proposal to Limit Nuclear First Use
(1st Draft / Re: the 25th Amendment – August 26, 2017)
To provide for a body of eminent persons to study, monitor, and submit recommendations on the capacity of the President to discharge the powers and duties of his office, including the first use of nuclear weapons.
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE .
This Act may be cited as the “Act to Establish a Body of Eminent Persons to Carry Out 25th Amendment Oversight.”
SEC. 2. PURPOSE.
The purpose of this Act is to provide, in accordance with powers granted Congress by section 4 of the 25th Amendment of the Constitution, for a body of eminent persons to study, monitor and submit recommendations on the capacity of the President of the United States to discharge any or all of the powers and duties of his office, including any decision for the first use of nuclear weapons.
SEC. 3. MEMBERSHIP AND POWERS.
(a) (1) A body is hereby established to carry out the power entrusted it under section 4 of the 25th Amendment of the Constitution to transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office in any or all particulars. The body created by this section shall have all powers necessary and proper to carry out this task, including the power to conduct studies, request and subpoena information, monitor the activities of the president, and submit recommendations to Congress on all matters related to the capacity of the President to carry out any or all of the powers and duties of his office.
(2) The body established by this section shall be named “The Body of Eminent Persons.”
(b) Except as provided in subsection (c), the following individuals shall constitute The Body of Eminent Persons:
(1) Both the senior and the most recent former living President, respectively, of each political party, consisting of four persons. Each such former president may temporarily delegate duties to a Vice President of their respective administrations, upon written notice to the Body of Eminent Persons describing the scope of the delegation.
(2) (i) Eminent persons of expertise in the fields of medicine, psychology, the legal profession including constitutional law scholars, political science, military strategy, journalism, and other areas of expertise relevant to determining the capacity of the President to discharge the powers and duties of the presidency. This body shall consist of (forty/TBD) persons, of whom no more than four shall be politicians who have held elected office. Any vacancies shall be filled in the same manner.
(ii) An equal number of such forty persons shall be selected for membership of the body, one quarter (ten) each, by each party caucus of the Senate and of the House.
(c) Disqualification, and Removal From The Body.—The following individuals shall not be members of The Body of Eminent Persons established under subsection (a) hereof:
(1) Any individual impeached by the House of Representatives.
(2) Any individual serving as President or Vice President, either at the time of their appointment or when the declaration or other action of incapacity is made under this Act.
(3) Any member appointed to any position in the administration of the executive branch, or to the judicial branch, or to any other official appointment by such individual described in this subsection.
(4) Any member of The Body of Eminent Persons identified in subsection (b) may be removed from The Body by a vote of 33 members of such body.
(d) A quorum for the Body shall be (24/TBD) members. Actual notice shall be required to all members for a non-scheduled meeting of the Body. If the body be equally divided on any matter, the Speaker of the House shall decide.
SEC. 4. CONTROLLING FIRST USE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS
(a) As soon as possible after any presidential decision, and no less than 24 hours prior to giving any related order, for first use of nuclear weapons by the United States, unless such weapons are deployed in the conduct of a war that has been declared by Congress under Article I, Section 8(11) of the Constitution, the Body of Eminent Persons shall be notified by the President. In default thereof it shall be the separate obligation of every other person necessary to order and carry out the use of nuclear weapons to provide such notification.
(b) Immediately upon receiving such notice the Body shall deliberate and vote whether the President is competent to make a decision to use nuclear weapons at that time. The Body of Eminent Persons shall be bound by secrecy in all aspects of their deliberations under this section. Upon completing their deliberations, the majority vote of the Body, a quorum for which shall be 33 members, shall be communicated to the President, and to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and to both houses of Congress. If applicable, such communication shall be in the form of the written declaration described in Sec 3(a)(1), provided the relevant terms for such declaration are satisfied.
(c) Congress upon receipt of such written declaration shall immediately vote whether to approve the first strike use of nuclear weapons as proposed by the President. If Congress does not vote to approve such action it shall be cancelled and anyone who orders or carries out such an attack shall be guilty of a war crime.
(d) Any violation by the President of this law shall be a constitutional high crime, also punishable as a felony.
SEC. 5. Termination Of Body.
The body described in Section 3 shall terminate upon the sooner of a) whenever Congress shall determine the Body no longer necessary or proper, or b) by a 3/4 vote of The Body to dissolve itself.
SEC. 6. Treaty.
The Secretary of State shall report to Congress within one year from the date hereof on the feasibility of concluding an international treaty among nuclear powers which is compatible with the provisions of this law.
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