Over thirty House Democrats are asking President Biden to consider renouncing his authority to launch nuclear weapons.
In a letter sent Tuesday but publicized Wednesday, 31 lawmakers led by Reps. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) and Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) urge the commander in chief to “consider modifying the decision-making process the United States uses in its command and control of nuclear forces.”
“As president, two of your most critical and solemn duties are the security of the country and the safeguarding of its nuclear arsenal,” the letter reads, noting the president’s sole authority to order the use of nuclear weapons assures keeping them under civilian control.
“However, vesting one person with this authority entails real risks,” Panetta and Lieu continued.
“Past presidents have threatened to attack other countries with nuclear weapons or exhibited behavior that caused other officials to express concern about the president’s judgment,” the two said, referencing former President Donald Trump’s very public feud with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
In terms of alternatives, the two California Democrats suggested a number of options.
One would be to require that the vice president and speaker of the House of Representatives concur with the president’s decision to strike.
Another option would be requiring certifications from the secretary of defense that the strike order was valid, as well as the attorney general that it was legal.
The two lawmakers also suggested requiring a Congressional declaration of war and specific approval from Congress on the strike.
The last option they suggested was creating a permanent council of Congressional leaders that would hold regular deliberations with the president and their administration on national security issues.
That council would be required to be consulted before the launch of any nuclear weapon.
Panetta is the son of Leon Panetta, who served as Defense Secretary and CIA director under President Obama and was chief of staff to President Clinton.
The White House did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment on the letter.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment on his stance on the president’s nuclear authority.
“While any president would presumably consult with advisors before ordering a nuclear attack, there is no requirement to do so,” the letter states, “The military is obligated to carry out the order if they assess it is legal under the laws of war.”
“Under the current posture of U.S. nuclear forces, that attack would happen in minutes.”