For the first time in more than 40 years Tuesday, federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill held a hearing to question the sole authority of a United States president to order a nuclear strike.
Raising concerns about the retaliatory strikes and other impacts that could come from a nuclear first strike, the Democrat argued that the power to launch such an attack should not rest in the hands of one person.
"This continues a series of hearings to examine these issues and will be the first time since 1976 that this committee or our House counterparts have looked specifically at the authority and process for using US nuclear weapons", Corker, who is from Tennessee, said in his statement.
"Making the decision to go to war of any sort is a heavy responsibility for our nation's elected leaders", Corker said.
"Many interpret that to mean that the president is actively considering the use of nuclear weapons in order to deal with the threat of North Korea".
The Massachusetts Democrat continued to press the issue and urged support for legislation, which would bar any American president from launching a nuclear weapon without congressional approval, as the Senate Foreign Relations committee heard testimony on nuclear weapons authority.
Congress needs to explore "the realities of this system", he said.
"The committee is clearly looking for remedies to ensure that a demented president could not unilaterally start a nuclear conflagration", said Bruce Blair, an expert on nuclear command and control and a research scholar at the Program of Science and Global Security at Princeton University.
The president, as commander in chief, is the sole arbiter or whether to use the USA nuclear arsenal - an issue that hasn't been debated at the congressional level in more than 40 years.
While the President retains constitutional authority to order some military action, Kehler explained that the nuclear decision process "includes assessment, review and consultation between the President and key civilian and military leaders, followed by transmission and implementation of any Presidential decision by the forces themselves".
Some members of Congress are pushing for a check on the president's powers, particularly his ability to order a preemptive strike. The measures, though, have not advanced in the Republican-controlled Congress.
"I think hard cases make bad law, and I think if we were to change the decision-making process in some way because of a distrust of this President, I think that would be an unfortunate precedent", said Brian Mckeon, who previously served as Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy during the Obama administration. Last month, the panel examined whether it's time to update the resolution authorizing the president to order the use of military force in foreign countries.
When asked before the hearing if he was concerned about Trump's authority, Corker said, "This is not specific to anyone".
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