Sen. Chris Murphy: "We need to take the President seriously when he threatens war, because the dam could break at any moment."
The White House said Trump is not closing the door to diplomacy but rejects the possibility of direct talks at this time
A group of Senate Democrats introduced a bill on Tuesday aiming to prevent President Donald Trump from launching a preemptive strike on North Korea without congressional approval absent an imminent threat to the US.
Citing “the escalation of irresponsible rhetoric” and “contradictory behavior from Trump and officials in his administration,” the bill would prohibit “funds from being used for kinetic military operations without congressional approval unless the United States faces an imminent threat or such action is necessary to defend citizens or our allies.”
Sen. Chris Murphy led fellow Democratic Sens. Tammy Duckworth, Brian Schatz, Cory Booker, Jeff Merkley, Elizabeth Warren and Tom Udall – as well as independent Sen. Bernie Sanders – in introducing the bill.
“We need to take the President seriously when he threatens war, because the dam could break at any moment. Republican and Democratic senators are alarmed over the path we’re on, and it’s important we join forces to reclaim Congress’ constitutional role in matters of war and peace before there’s no turning back,” Murphy said.
“This bill shouldn’t be controversial since it essentially restates current law, 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,” he added.
With little time to evacuate, millions of innocent citizens would be caught in the crossfire if the US and its regional allies were to initiate a first strike, that would almost certainly result in high casualties on both sides.
But Trump has routinely warned that military solutions remain on the table amid tensions with North Korea.
While all war game scenarios show the US winning a military confrontation, that victory could come at the cost of hundreds of thousands of deaths, mostly in South Korea where millions of innocent people – and nearly 30,000 US troops – are already in range of North Korea’s current missile capabilities.
According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, North Korea can field 21,000 artillery pieces. Many of those are within range of the 25 million South Koreans living in the Seoul metropolitan area.
“A preemptive strike against North Korea could be catastrophic for the nearly 80,000 American service members who are stationed in the region and for the tens of millions of innocent human beings who live on the Korean Peninsula,” said Duckworth of Illinois, a combat veteran. “We need our nation’s commander in chief to show a steady hand and sound judgment, 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 White House on Tuesday continued to defend Trump’s approach to the North Korean crisis, insisting that Trump is not closing the door to diplomacy, but rather rejecting the possibility of direct talks with North Korea at this time.
Two senior administration officials insisted Tuesday that the Trump administration is still engaged in ramping up pressure on the North Korean regime through diplomacy, despite Trump’s tweet earlier this month that his secretary of state was “wasting his time trying to negotiate” with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.
“The President did not tweet that diplomacy was a waste of time. He tweeted that direct talks were a waste of time,” a senior administration official said.
“The diplomatic campaign goes on. But the administration’s position – the President’s clear position – is that direct talks with North Korea are unwise at this time.”
A second administration official said that while the Trump administration has “made clear that the door was open” for talks with North Korea, “North Korea has shown zero inclination to engage in substantive talks with anyone in the world on the subject.”
Defense Secretary James Mattis has consistently maintained that he prefers to resolve issues diplomatically but on Saturday, said Washington “does not accept a nuclear North Korea” and said “any use of nuclear weapons by the North will be met with a massive military response, effective and overwhelming.”
CNN’s Brian Todd and Dugald McConnell contributed to this report