The congressman representing the district that includes UCLA said at an event Monday he is working to prevent the president from being able to unilaterally authorize a nuclear strike.
Congressman Ted Lieu proposed House Resolution 669 – “Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017” – in January to prohibit the president from conducting a nuclear attack without determining the enemy has launched an attack. The resolution also requires that the president secure congressional approval before launching a nuclear strike.
Current law only requires approval from the president and secretary of defense to launch a nuclear weapon, Lieu said at the Monday event, which was held at the UCLA School of Law.
Lieu said the bill aims to check the military power of the presidency.
“This bill is absolutely trying to restrain the presidency,” Lieu said. “Part of why we’re doing this is just to raise awareness – we just want people to think about this.”
Lieu said his bill has bipartisan support. He added he wrote the bill during the 2016 presidential election, when he and others thought Hillary Clinton would become president.
Lieu said he thinks Congress has given the executive branch more authority over the years to wage war. For example, he said both Democratic and Republican administrations have used the Authorization for Use of Military Force, a Senate resolution passed after 9/11 that gave the president the authority to use force to fight terrorism without a congressional declaration of war. The Constitution gives Congress the sole power to declare war.
“The bill would require the president to get an AUMF before using nuclear weapons,” Lieu said. “I support one day having no nuclear weapons – we’re a very long way from that day.”
Lieu also said he thinks Russia launched major cyberattacks on the United States during the 2016 presidential election in support of President Donald Trump. He added he thinks there was either implicit or explicit coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
“Trump’s campaign went through great lengths to help the Kremlin,” he said. “We know there’s communications between (the Trump administration and Russia).”
Lieu added he thinks the Russian government exploited social media as a way to support Trump through advertising.
“(For) TV ads at a federal level, you can see who funds this,” Lieu said. “If you did the same ad on Facebook, no one would know who pays for it.”
Mitansh Shah, a second-year computer science and engineering student, said he attended the event because he connected with Lieu’s academic background.
“(Lieu) is a computer science major (like) I am, (and) I’m very interested in policy as well,” he said. “I thought it was absolutely wonderful that (he) comes out to these kinds of events where he can really engage with his constituents.”