Three Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday issued a statement pushing back on Democrats’ letter to President Biden urging him to give up his sole nuclear authority.
Conference Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Ranking Member Mike Rogers, R-Ala., and Subcommittee Ranking Member Mike Turner, R-Ohio, said such a move would “would leave Americans vulnerable.”
“Democrats’ dangerous efforts suggesting a restructuring of our nuclear command and control process will undermine American security, as well as the security of our allies,” the Republicans said in a statement. “These proposals, if enacted, would leave Americans vulnerable, destabilize the nuclear balance, and shake our allies’ confidence in the nuclear umbrella.”
The statement added that revoking the president’s nuclear capabilities would be welcome by adversaries with nuclear powers, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“The ability to take action during an attack is imperative to deterring a preemptive strike from our adversaries. America should never adopt policies or create bureaucratic impediments that would give our adversaries an advantage,” the statement said.
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Cheney emphasized the importance of the country’s nuclear capabilities in a Tuesday speech.
“Similarly, adopting any policy that restricts the United States ability to defend ourselves, such as the ‘no first use’ policy with respect to our nuclear forces, would severely undermine our deterrent and makes the world far more dangerous,” she said during a Tuesday speech at the Reagan Institute, adding that the U.S. “should never adopt policies that restrain our exercise of power while our adversaries do the opposite.”
About three dozen House Democrats signed a letter asking Biden to renounce his sole authority to launch nuclear weapons, according to a Wednesday Politico report. A promise from the president to give up his nuclear capabilities as commander in chief could take the same power away from future presidents.
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“Vesting one person with this authority entails real risks,” the letter from Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., and obtained by Politico reads. “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.”
The congressman said in a Monday tweet that he is “calling on” Biden “to install checks [and] balances in our nuclear command-and-control structure.”
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Democrats who signed the letter offered some alternatives to sole nuclear authority, such as requiring the vice president and House speaker to agree with a launch order from the president before it is executed, according to Politico.
Presidents have continually passed down a briefcase containing all the necessary materials to dial up a nuclear strike using a specific code, often referred to as the “nuclear football.”
Democrats previously expressed concern with former President Trump having access to such power. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in January, for example, said she spoke with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley about protecting nuclear codes from an “unhinged president.”