For too many Americans, the past year has awoken fears that had faded over the past 30 years. President Donald Trump has threatened to rain "fire and fury" down upon North Korea. He has announced a program to build new and more "usable" nuclear weapons. A recent false alarm in Hawaii of an incoming missile attack sent thousands of families running for cover. Anxieties have risen to the point that a majority of Americans do not trust the president to handle a nuclear crisis.
This is not acceptable.
To begin to address this dangerous state of affairs, it is critical to understand one core reality – the president has the sole authority to order the use of nuclear weapons. He can order a first strike with no outside review required. He may consult with Congress, but is not required to do so. If his order is refused, he has the power to relieve and immediately replace any officer. If a president ordered a nuclear attack on North Korea, or any other nuclear power, the result would be an immediate counter-attack resulting in unspeakable American casualties.
This is an extraordinary concentration of power in the hands of one person, without any meaningful system of checks and balances. The fate of our nation must not be dependent upon one person's temperament or soundness of mind. This must change.
That is why U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu, a Los Angeles Democrat, has introduced H.R. 669, which would require congressional approval for the first use of nuclear weapons. This legislation establishes checks and balances on any president's ability to start a nuclear war, but it does not in any way impede the president's ability to respond in defense of our people.
The bill is cosponsored by two members of Congress who represent my state Assembly district, Mike Thompson and John Garamendi. I have introduced AJR 30, which calls upon every member of the California congressional delegation to cosponsor and work toward passage of H.R. 669. In New Hampshire and Maryland, large delegations of state legislators have similarly urged support, and local resolutions have passed in cities in New Mexico, Washington, Maine, and New Hampshire.
We have the responsibility to raise our voices on behalf of our constituents. Every American should have a say in the security of their family and their community. On this most fundamental question of life and death decision-making, we must maintain the system of checks and balances. I urge every legislator and every member of California's congressional delegation to join me in the effort to protect the American people from the terror of a nuclear war.
Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, a Winters Democrat, represents the 4th Assembly District. She can be contacted at John.Ferrera@asm.ca.gov.