Ed Markey Wants to Make It Harder for Donald Trump to Use Nuclear Weapons

A long-shot bill he filed would remove some of his powers to drop nukes.

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A long-shot bill filed by Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey aims to make it harder for Donald Trump to use nuclear weapons.

The bill, a collaboration with Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of California, would require that Congress declare war before Trump—whose lack impulse control is well established, and who has pledged to “bomb the shit out of ISIS“—can order a nuclear strike.

“Nuclear war poses the gravest risk to human survival. Yet, President Trump has suggested that he would consider launching nuclear attacks against terrorists,” Markey said in a statement. “Unfortunately, by maintaining the option of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict, U.S. policy provides him with that power. In a crisis with another nuclear-armed country, this policy drastically increases the risk of unintended nuclear escalation. Neither President Trump, nor any other president, should be allowed to use nuclear weapons except in response to a nuclear attack. By restricting the first use of nuclear weapons, this legislation enshrines that simple principle into law. I thank Rep. Lieu for his partnership on this common-sense bill during this critical time in our nation’s history.”

Donald Trump’s views on nuclear weapons are not exactly easy to pin down, but in the past he has embraced the idea of an arms race with Russia, and said he wouldn’t rule out striking enemies with nuclear weapons first or employing the U.S’s vast nuclear arsenal against ISIS.

The law proposed by the Democrats is called the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act, and it comes after Markey’s long-stated opposition to the U.S.’s first-strike policy that allows the Commander-in-Chief to drop a nuclear bomb at will. He and Lieu filed a similar bill in September, 2016.

In December, Markey also fired back after Trump tweeted about his interest in expanding the country’s nuclear arms program, calling on the then-president-elect to reconsider, and instead support a reduction.


Spencer Buell Staff Writer at Boston Magazine sbuell@bostonmagazine.com