House Democrats have dropped a proverbial bomb on the new commander-in-chief. They want President Joe Biden to renounce his sole authority to launch nuclear weapons.
If he were to agree to the proposal, such action could take the same power away from future presidents.
Can the Democrats pull it off, and what would it mean for the country in the event of a nuclear war?
Reps. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Ted Lieu (D-CA) wrote a letter signed by 31 of their Democratic colleagues calling on Biden to give up sole authority to launch nuclear weapons.
"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," the California representatives wrote.
Vesting a single person with nuclear authority entails real risks. I'm leading a group of my colleagues with @RepTedLieu in calling for reform to our nuclear command-and-control structure. It's time to install additional checks and balances into this system. https://t.co/H9zsmDuVq4
— Rep. Jimmy Panetta (@RepJimmyPanetta) February 23, 2021
"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 continues.
Democrats want Biden to put in checks and balances in the nuclear command and control structure so one person can't launch a first strike.
Among the recommendations: requiring the Vice President or House Speaker to agree with a launch order, according to Politico.com.
The New York Post reports another recommendation suggested by the lawmakers involves requiring a congressional declaration of war and specific approval from Congress on the strike.
Critics raise the objection that the changes would weaken the power of the presidency and would apply to future presidents.
"This is about more than just one man. It's about the presidency even if it is Joe Biden during nap time," said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL).
Under current protocol, the president always has a briefcase with him containing all of the necessary information to order a nuclear strike using specific codes. The briefcase or "nuclear football" is carried by a member of the president's staff.
In January, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she spoke with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley about protecting nuclear codes from an "unhinged president," according to Fox News.
At the time, Pelosi said she spoke to Milley "to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike."
So far, There's been no comment from the White House to the House Democrats' proposal.