Just over 30 House Democrats seek to take President Joe Biden’s sole authority over the country’s nuclear codes away from him, according to Politico. In a letter sent to Biden on Monday, Rep. Jimmy Panetta (R-CA) seeks to have Biden relinquish sole control over nuclear weapons deployment.
“As president, two of your most critical and solemn duties are the security of the country and the safeguarding of its nuclear arsenal,” Panetta’s letter said. “You alone possess the authority to order the use of nuclear weapons, which assures that nuclear weapons remain under civilian control.”
“However, 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.”
“While any president would presumably consult with advisors before ordering a nuclear attack, there is no requirement to do so,” the letter adds. “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 offers several different options for reforming the current protocol. One suggestion is to have a chain of command, within which approval from Vice-President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi would be required. Other options include requiring certification from the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General, obtaining authorization from Congress after an official declaration of war has been enacted, and even creating a congressional council tasked with approving any use of nuclear weapons.
Panetta makes a thinly-veiled reference to former President Donald Trump as the potential catalyst behind the House members’ letter when he mentions “past Presidents” threatening to attack other countries. Another statement that appears directly targeted at Trump is when Panetta states his concern over past Presidents that have “exhibited behavior that caused other officials to express concern about the president’s judgment.”
The letter does not call into question Biden’s current mental state, although there has been international concern and speculation that Biden may be experiencing some level of mental decline. The current President has, in fact, had increasing difficulty communicating with the public during his latest speeches, committing “gaffes,” and making inaccurate statements, while at other times, becoming seemingly unable to formulate intelligible sentences, despite the use of a teleprompter. Several Twitter users have posted clips of the president stumbling over his words.
Republican lawmaker Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) publicly expressed distrust over President Biden’s capabilities by tweeting “wouldn’t trust Biden with sole access to my garage code.”
It is important to note that any changes made to nuclear codes protocol would apply to future presidents as well.