Roughly three dozen House Democrats have asked President Joe Biden to make an unprecedented move for the United States’ national security.
The letter from legislators obtained by Politico reportedly asked for the procedure surrounding access to nuclear codes and launching a nuclear attack on another country.
A suggested alternative to having only the president give permission to launch a nuclear attack is to have both the vice president and speaker of the House agree with a launch order from the president, Fox News reported.
“Vesting one person with this authority entails real risks,” the letter spearheaded by California Democratic Rep. Jimmy Panetta said.
“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.”
“While any president would presumably consult with advisors before ordering a nuclear attack, there is no requirement to do so. 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,” the letter continued.
Nearly three dozen House Democrats on Monday called on Biden to relinquish his sole authority to launch nuclear weapons, in the latest appeal to reform the command-and-control structure so that no single person can initiate a nuclear war https://t.co/AOIHaYf1b4 pic.twitter.com/OSKJ64d3cW
— POLITICO (@politico) February 23, 2021
Panetta doubled down on his and other House Democrats’ suggestion in a tweet Tuesday, affirming there needs to be “checks and balances.”
“I’m calling on @POTUS to install checks & balances in our nuclear command-and-control structure. Past presidents have threatened nuclear attacks on other countries or exhibited concerning behavior that cast doubt on their judgment,” he said.
ICYMI: I’m calling on @POTUS to install checks & balances in our nuclear command-and-control structure.
Past presidents have threatened nuclear attacks on other countries or exhibited concerning behavior that cast doubt on their judgment. Read more: https://t.co/Ntk8uvRqxO
— Rep. Jimmy Panetta (@RepJimmyPanetta) February 24, 2021
Democrats frequently raised concerns in the past about former President Donald Trump’s ability to launch a nuclear weapon, fearing he would be reckless with his power.
Obviously, a nuclear apocalypse started by Trump did not happen, but it is somewhat surprising that some House Democrats would want this change made under Biden.
“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” Trump tweeted in 2018 while tensions were mounting with the Asian country.
While Biden does not use Twitter to poke at nations the way Trump did, House Democrats doing this now shows they might have some concerns about Biden having the nuclear button all to himself.
The nuclear football goes with the president everywhere, even on Air Force One, making it one of the most consequential “perks” of being the commander in chief.
— CNN (@CNN) January 19, 2021
There has never been a nuclear attack launched using the codes, though the United States did come close to nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis under former President John F. Kennedy.
The Cuban Missile Crisis marked one of the most dangerous moments in history when the deployment of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba put them fewer than 15 minutes away from Washington, D.C. Listen to today’s #HopeThroughHistory on @applepodcast: https://t.co/o8Vkr9vHcl pic.twitter.com/TDZvM1vBMz
— HISTORY (@HISTORY) May 12, 2020
Checks and balances to the process might do some good for the future of the United States, but questions should remain about the timing of the letter.
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