Monday, December 4, 2017

To Do This Week: More letters to Congress



Last week's plan -- a letter a day to Congress to support HR.669/S.200 "Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017" -- turned out pretty well.

At a busy time of year, it's helpful to set a few simple priorities and get those tasks done.

I'm going to try it again this week, focusing on senators I watched in the video of the November 14 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on "Authority to Order the Use of Nuclear Weapons." In that hearing . . .

* There was strong affirmation from everyone in the room that Congress (not the president) has the sole authority to authorize a (non-defensive) nuclear first strike through its power to declare war, AND/BUT continuing silence by Congress about its authority tends to have the practical effect of leaving the president completely in control.

* The three experts who testified were deeply knowledgeable and answered all questions to the best of their ability. But, when it was all said and done, as pointed out by Senator Markey, they could not provide satisfactory assurance that the president -- particularly the current president -- could not unilaterally cause the launch of a (non-defensive) nuclear first strike i.e. without Congressional authorization.

Below are the tasks I have set myself for the week. Each is a letter to a senator on the Foreign Relations Committee.

What would happen if a large number of people picked up their pens and took control of this issue?


Monday: Sen. Bob Corker (TN)

Senator Corker chairs the committee. He showed a great deal of leadership in calling the hearing, and he is to be commended. Now ... given the conclusions cited above, what does being a leader call for him to do now?

Tuesday: Sen. Ben Cardin (MD)

Senator Cardin is the ranking member on the committee (i.e. the senior member from the Democratic Party).  I noticed that he zeroed in on the shakiness of any real constraint on the president. (See minute 58:00 of the hearing.)

Wednesday: Sen. Tom Udall (NM)

Viewing the hearing, I got the distinct impression that Senator Udall is not satisfied with what he was hearing. I hope he'll move to support for S.200. (See minute 1:13:00 of the hearing.)

Thursday: Sen. Tim Kaine (VA)

Senator Kaine's exchange with the witnesses zeroed in on the key point: Congress (not the president) has the sole authority to authorize a (non-defensive) nuclear first strike through its power to declare war, AND/BUT continuing silence by Congress about its authority tends to have the practical effect of leaving the president completely in control. (See minute 1:44:00 of the hearing.)

Friday: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (NH)

I found it very noteworthy that Senator Shaheen focused on the phrase "civilization-threatening consequences" in the testimony of the witnesses. (See minute 2:03:00 of the hearing.)


It's time for Congress to re-assert its rightful power over nuclear weapons. S.200 is a critical first step.

Who will you be writing to?


Related posts

Notes on how to talk to your representatives in Congress

"Nuclear Citizenship" by Elaine Scarry in Harper's

On Nuclear Weapons: We Need Tenacity


Please share this post . . . .