US Senators, Schatz Introduce Bill to Prevent Pre-emptive Strike on North Korea

October 31, 2017, 10:46 AM HST · Updated October 31, 10:48 AM
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US Senator Brian Schatz. Photo Courtesy

US Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and seven other US Senators introduced a bill today prohibiting President Trump from starting a preemptive war against North Korea, absent an imminent threat or without express authorization from Congress.

The bill, also introduced by Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.), comes amidst the escalation of “irresponsible rhetoric and contradictory behavior from President Trump and officials in his administration,” Schatz said.

The bill states “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to Beijing in September 2017 to discuss calming tensions and obtaining a diplomatic solution on North Korea. President Trump tweeted during Secretary Tillerson’s visit that the Secretary of State was ‘‘wasting his time’’ and previously threatened that North Korea’s leaders ‘‘wouldn’t be around much longer.’’

The bill would prohibit funds from being used for kinetic military operations without Congressional approval unless the US faces an imminent threat or such action is necessary to defend citizens or US allies.

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“Our bill makes it clear that the president does not have the authority to engage in preventive war without approval from Congress, and it goes so far as to tie the purse strings so that the president will have to ask for Congressional approval before taking any preventive action, ” said Sen. Schatz.

“I want to emphasize what this bill does not do. It does not limit the ability of the United States to protect our allies. Japan, South Korea, and every other ally of the United States should rest assured that we stand with them, and we will have their backs,” he added.

“This bill shouldn’t be controversial since it essentially restates current law,” added Sen. Murphy. “But Congress needs to make it crystal clear that the President does not have the authority to take preemptive military action in North Korea without congressional consent.”

Article I, Section 8, of the US Constitution grants Congress the sole power to declare war.

“A preemptive strike against North Korea could be catastrophic for the nearly 80,000 American servicemembers who are stationed in the region and for the tens of millions of innocent human beings who live on the Korean Peninsula,” said Sen. Duckworth, a combat veteran. “We need our nation’s Commander-in-Chief to show a steady hand and sound judgement, not to engage in irresponsible and dangerous verbal attacks that only serve to escalate an already dangerous situation and put American lives at risk.”

“The President’s erratic, blustering approach to North Korea has created a huge risk of stumbling into a disastrous war,” said Sen. Merkley. “A preemptive strike on North Korea would immediately be met by retaliation that could kill tens of thousands of South Koreans as well as many Americans within hours. This outcome is unacceptable. We need to make sure that Congress exercises its constitutional responsibilities to prevent profound and destructive misjudgments.”

The full text of the bill is available here.


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