Pelosi Wants ‘Urgent’ Update on President’s Nuclear Weapons Authority

Minority leader says proposal is about presidential powers, not about Trump

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says the current law guiding the use of nuclear weapons is “ancient.” (Tom Williams/Roll Call)

Status: Urgent.

That’s how House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is categorizing the need to update the law guiding when the president of the United States can use nuclear weapons.

“The law under which the president has authority to exercise ‘first use’ is one that is ancient,” the California Democrat told reporters Thursday. “It is from 1946. It was in a different world. And now I think it is necessary for us to address it.”

Pelosi’s “urgent” interest in updating the law on nuclear first use comes at a time when President Donald Trump is plotting the best strategy for responding to North Korea’s continuing buildup of its nuclear arsenal and tests of its intercontinental ballistic missiles.

But the minority leader said the proposal is not about Trump; it’s about presidential powers.

“I believe that if we go forward on that, it has to be in a bipartisan way, because it’s about all presidents,” she said.

As to what an update would look like, Pelosi said, “There are all kinds of proposals out there, one … declaring the United States of America will not engage in first use of a nuclear weapon. I like that one the best.”

Another proposal would prevent the president from authorizing the use of nuclear weapons without the advice of some members of his Cabinet, she said.

“I remind that if our country is attacked, the War Powers Act triggers for the executive any and all powers,” Pelosi said. “But there is interest in the U.S. establishing itself as no first use.”

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