Women Legislators' Lobby

Oregon Rep. Tawna Sanchez & Oregon Rep. Karin Power: “The president should not have sole nuclear authority”

Oregonians have a unique, complicated relationship with nuclear weapons, with a decommissioned nuclear production complex situated less than 50 miles from our northern border. The Hanford Site, established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project, manufactured the plutonium used in the nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. Today, "the most toxic place in America" continues to raise concerns about health risks and the long term effects of pollution on our state's residents. Nuclear weapons, both in their creation and use, have horrifying and dangerous consequences.

That's why we were glad that earlier this month, Sen. Bob Corker, (R-Tennessee), held a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on which Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) also sits, to examine the president's unchecked authority to use nuclear weapons.

President Donald Trump has the sole and total authority to order the launch of America's entire nuclear weapons arsenal. From the time a president decides to launch, it would take approximately five minutes until intercontinental ballistic missiles blast out of their silos and about 15 minutes until submarine missiles shoot out of their tubes. Once they are in the air, there is no return button to bring them back.

That means the most horrific decision in history could be executed in less than 15 minutes by one person with no time for second-guessing.

In light of Trump's belligerent actions towards North Korea, along with Kim Jong-Un's frequent missile tests andreciprocation, it's easy to see a terrifying scenario where the president-- who can barely control himself from commenting about any perceived slight-- loses his temper and orders nukes into the air.

As former Minuteman missile launch officer and nuclear expert Bruce Blair noted, "the presidency has evolved into something akin to a nuclear monarchy. With a single phone call, the commander in chief has virtually unlimited power to rain down nuclear weapons on any adversarial regime and country at any time."

The last thing the founders of this country wanted was a monarchy of any kind. They understood that because it is everyday people, like those in Oregon, who bear the brunt of any war and should have input into the decision with open debate.

As local representatives committed to a secure and healthy future, we are proud to stand by Sens. Merkley and Ron Wyden who are co-sponsoring Sen. Ed Markey's (D-Massachusetts) bill restricting the president's authority to launch nuclear weapons without congressional approval. Similarly, we applaud Oregon Reps. Peter DeFazio, Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer, who signed onto the House version of the same bill.

It is up to us Oregonians to continue pressuring our representatives to address the reckless way our government handles its nuclear weapons, and to do what we can to effect lasting change from this conversation.

This administration wakes us all up to the dangers of allowing any unchecked power in our government - and as Oregonians, our eerie proximity to Hanford reminds us that it is imperative to prevent nuclear weapons from flying into the air.

Originally published in The Oregonian on November 29, 2017. 

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