Sen. Mike Lee rejects as ‘horrible policy’ idea of removing president’s sole authority for nuclear launch

Democrats say leaving decision with one person is too risky.

(Jim Watson | File pool photo via AP) Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, speaks during hearing on Jan. 27, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington.

While 30 House Democrats are asking President Joe Biden to relinquish his sole authority to launch nuclear weapons, Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee says that’s a “horrible policy” and “wildly unconstitutional.”

The group of Democrats this week spearheaded by Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., the son of former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, wrote Biden this week asking him to “consider modifying the decision-making process the United States uses in its command and control of nuclear forces.”

“Vesting one person with this authority entails real risks,” the wrote. “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.”

The group suggested several alternatives. Among those, one would require the vice president or House speaker to concur in a launch decision. Another would mandate that a congressional declaration of war would be needed. A third would require consent of a congressional council.

Lee was asked about the proposals during an appearance Thursday morning on “Fox & Friends” on the Fox News Channel, and he scoffed at the idea.

“You’ve got to let the president be the commander in chief. It seems really weird to me that they take that away,” he said.

He added that elections subject presidents to rigorous review by voters, so “once they’ve won an election, you really do have to pick that horse and then ride it,” he said.

Lee really disliked the idea of requiring permission to launch from a council from Congress.

“In addition to being wildly unconstitutional, this would be horrible policy,” Lee said. “Remember what happened when you put a committee in charge of protecting the Capitol? That didn’t end so well either.”