WASHINGTON, D.C. – Nearly three dozen Congressional Democrats have signed a letter requesting that President Joe Biden relinquish his sole authority to engage a nuclear strike and reform the country’s command-and-control structure, reports say.
The letter, written by Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), argues that responsibility of being able to launch a nuke is simply too much power for any one person to possess, according to Politico, who has obtained a copy of the letter.
“Vesting one person with this authority entails real risks. 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,” Panetta’s letter reads. “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 suggests that the power to launch nukes could be shared with – and possibly require consent from – individuals in the presidential line of succession, such as Vice-President Kamala Harris and/or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, since neither of them “can be removed by the president if they disagree — to concur with a launch order.”
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Panetta also backed up his letter with the following tweet: “I’m calling on @POTUS to install checks & balances in our nuclear command-and-control structure.”
Previously, Democrats had objected to former President Donald Trump having unilateral access to launching nukes; in January, Nancy Pelosi spoke to representatives at the Pentagon concerning her worries over an “unhinged president” launching nuclear missiles after the January 6, U.S. Capitol riots but no official action was taken.
Some conservatives see this move on the part of Democrats as displaying a lack of faith in the President’s cognitive abilities, with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) saying that Biden is “too frail to stand up to their efforts to decentralize power” and “Sleepy Joe’ wasn’t just a political nickname…you look at a growing number of Democrats who are now concerned about giving Joe Biden the codes for the nuclear system.”
The President of the United States is never without the so-called “nuclear football,” a briefcase – carried by an aide-de-camp – containing all of the materials and codes needed to initiate an immediate nuclear strike when he is away from fixed command centers.