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house Bill H.R. 669

Does the President Need to be Blocked From Launching a Nuclear First Strike Unless Congress Declares War?

Argument in favor

A U.S. president shouldn’t conduct a nuclear first strike unless an adversary has already attacked America or its allies with nuclear weapons or Congress has given the president that authority. That power in the wrong hands could lead to nuclear armageddon.

Joshua's Opinion
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02/02/2019
The threat of nuclear war is too great to allow a President to act alone. The use of such terrible weapons ought to require Congress at least to declare a state of war.
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Linda's Opinion
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02/01/2019
Trump is not a rational human being. He must be stopped from starting WWIII. No first strike by trump allowed!
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Matthew's Opinion
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02/04/2019
The fact that this question even needs to be asked shows that YES that guy needs to be kept away from the "button". No first strike by that unhinged man-child!
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Argument opposed

To deny the president even the possibility of launching a unilateral nuclear first strike give our enemies leverage. There could be scenarios where there’s only a brief window to launch a preemptive strike before an adversary can attack America or its allies.

Ronald's Opinion
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02/01/2019
Our Commander in Chief (whoever it is at any given time) must not be limited in maintaining the safety of Our Nation. Congress passing a bill to limit "first strike" is treason. Congress must stand for Our Nation, not anyone else.
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Jonathan's Opinion
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02/10/2019
It is in his power he has more knowledge than Congress does at the point that he would I have to push the button And Congress takes too long by the time they can come up with a decision we could all be dead
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JClemmons's Opinion
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02/01/2019
Until nuclear arms have broadly been reduced globally, it is necessary that the Commander-in-Chief has the ability to deter our enemies with the unitary ability to drop nuclear weapons. It is still true today that Congress will act too slowly in the event of a nuclear war, or a war in which we would consider dropping a nuclear bomb. Perhaps if Congress changes its rules about voting in absentia (I can't imagine a quick enough gathering of the Congress to strike back quickly enough in the event of a nuclear attack) or by proxy, then there is some hope; until then, as we descend into a new chapter in the Cold War saga, the Executive must remain sovereign in his ability to conduct a nuclear strike. Certainly, there are particular conditions the executive must arrive upon before they themselves make the ultimate decision, which cannot be reverse once the process is initiated. Even our current executive is not deranged enough to act in such a reckless manner, despite his recent saber-rattling with our enemies.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Foreign Affairs
    IntroducedJanuary 17th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 669?

This bill would prohibit the president from launching a nuclear first strike against a U.S. adversary unless Congress has approved a declaration of war against that country that explicitly authorizes a first strike.

It would also declare that it is U.S. policy to never use a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war. A nuclear first strike would be defined as any nuclear attack against an enemy that is conducted without the president determining that the enemy has first launched a nuclear strike against the U.S. or one of its allies.

Impact

Congress and the President.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 669

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to restrain a president from launching a nuclear first strike against an enemy of the U.S. unless Congress gives its authorization. Observing that President Trump's brand is to "unpredictable and rash," Rep. Lieu said:

"We introduced this bill under the Obama Administration, but Trump’s Presidency has highlighted just how scary it is that any president has the authority to launch a nuke without Congressional consultation. I believed in 2016 what I still believe now: launching a weapon that has the power to instantly kill millions of people is an obvious act of war. Regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, Congress has the constitutional duty to decide when a nuclear first strike is warranted. As we’re now coming to realize, we could be one tweet that insults the president away from catastrophe.”

When he originally introduced this bill, Rep. Lieu said in a press release that there issue "is more urgent now than ever that President Donald Trump has the power to launch a nuclear war at a moment's notice" and added:

“It is a frightening reality that the U.S. now has a Commander-in-Chief who has demonstrated ignorance of the nuclear triad, stated his desire to be 'unpredictable' with nuclear weapons, and as President-elect was making sweeping statements about U.S. nuclear policy over Twitter. Congress must act to preserve global stability by restricting the circumstances under which the U.S. would be the first nation to use a nuclear weapon. Our Founders created a system of checks and balances, and it is essential for that standard to be applied to the potentially civilization-ending threat of nuclear war.”

When he and Rep. Lieu reintroduced this bill in the current Congress, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) said:

"No American President, and certainly not Donald Trump, should have the power to launch a first use nuclear first strike absent such an attack without explicit Congressional approval. It would be immoral, it would be disproportionate, and it could only be considered an act of war – something our morals and our Constitution make clear no single person should be able to do alone.”

Win Without War supports this legislation. Its Advocacy Director, Eric Fein, says:

"[B]ecause of our deeply flawed and dangerous system, if the president decides to launch a nuclear weapon, no one can stop him. It is high time for Congress to add a check on this or any future president’s ability to start a nuclear war."

The Federation of American Scientists also supports this bill. The Director of its Nuclear Information project, Hans Kristensen, says no president should have the power to start a nuclear war without a declaration of war by Congress. 

In the current Congress, this bill has 46 bipartisan cosponsors, including 45 Democrats and one Republican. Last Congress, this bill had the support of 82 bipartisan cosponsors in the House, including 81 Democrats and one Republican, but it died in committee. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that it's "urgent" for the U.S. to formally adopt a no first-use policy on nuclear weapons.


Of Note: During the presidential campaign, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and her surrogates said that Donald Trump would start a nuclear war, after the host of a TV show alleged that Trump asked a foreign policy expert several times why nuclear weapons aren’t used. Trump denied that allegation.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: National Nuclear Security Administration / Creative Commons)

AKA

Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2019

Official Title

To prohibit the conduct of a first-use nuclear strike absent a declaration of war by Congress.

    The threat of nuclear war is too great to allow a President to act alone. The use of such terrible weapons ought to require Congress at least to declare a state of war.
    Like (3)
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    Our Commander in Chief (whoever it is at any given time) must not be limited in maintaining the safety of Our Nation. Congress passing a bill to limit "first strike" is treason. Congress must stand for Our Nation, not anyone else.
    Like (1)
    Follow
    Share
    Trump is not a rational human being. He must be stopped from starting WWIII. No first strike by trump allowed!
    Like (1)
    Follow
    Share
    The fact that this question even needs to be asked shows that YES that guy needs to be kept away from the "button". No first strike by that unhinged man-child!
    Like
    Follow
    Share
    Congress needs to be the check & balance against POTUS. NO WAR!
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    YES!!! We REALLY need to do this!!!
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    There are a lot of ways to deter a nuclear attack without resorting the threat of a first strike. Blocking a first-strike policy would also do much to reassure the world that the US is still a responsible world power.
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    The Donald doesn’t have the mental stability to be trusted with such a responsibility.
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    Until nuclear arms have broadly been reduced globally, it is necessary that the Commander-in-Chief has the ability to deter our enemies with the unitary ability to drop nuclear weapons. It is still true today that Congress will act too slowly in the event of a nuclear war, or a war in which we would consider dropping a nuclear bomb. Perhaps if Congress changes its rules about voting in absentia (I can't imagine a quick enough gathering of the Congress to strike back quickly enough in the event of a nuclear attack) or by proxy, then there is some hope; until then, as we descend into a new chapter in the Cold War saga, the Executive must remain sovereign in his ability to conduct a nuclear strike. Certainly, there are particular conditions the executive must arrive upon before they themselves make the ultimate decision, which cannot be reverse once the process is initiated. Even our current executive is not deranged enough to act in such a reckless manner, despite his recent saber-rattling with our enemies.
    Like
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    We do not need to start another World War. We are about to have one because of our meddling in Venezuela.
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    No rush to kill millions of people in a city
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    Since we have a mentally unstable president their must be checks on his ability to use nuclear bombs
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    The massiveness of the U.S. Nuclear Armory, no one person should have access without agreement by ALL OF CONGRESS!!
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    It is in his power he has more knowledge than Congress does at the point that he would I have to push the button And Congress takes too long by the time they can come up with a decision we could all be dead
    Like
    Follow
    Share