Murphy presses Congress to curb Trump ability to strike North Korea

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Sen. Chris Murphy on the Senate floor Thursday.

Washington – Sen. Chris Murphy on Tuesday introduced a resolution that would prevent the United States from launching a pre-emptive strike against North Korea, saying he was prompted to do so by the Trump administration’s increasingly belligerent tone toward Pyongyang.

“Loose talk of war and belligerent rhetoric increases the risk of miscalculation by either side and severely unnerves United States allies,” the resolution says.

The legislation, which Murphy called “a restatement of existing law,” would only allow President Donald Trump to strike North Korea if it attacked U.S. interests first, if there were an “imminent threat” of danger from the communist nation, or if Congress gave him authority to do so.

It also would prohibit the Pentagon from spending money on a military operation on North Korea without Congress’s approval.

Murphy said he was concerned about the answers Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis gave when questioned about a possible U.S. military strike on North Korea during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Monday.

The Trump administration officials indicated the U.S. Constitution gave the president certain war-making powers when U.S. national security interests are threatened.

Murphy called their response to his questions about the administration’s war-making authority “very muddled.”

“The Constitution requires the president to come to Congress for prior authorization,” Murphy said.

In a press conference with two other Democratic sponsors — Sens. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois — Murphy said he also was prompted to act by Trump’s hostile tweets against North Korea’s leaders, especially the nation’s president, Kim Jong-un.

He said the president has shown, with other issues including a global climate change treaty, a dangerous “willingness to ignore his advisers.”

Trump will visit Asia for the first time this week, with a visit planned to Camp Humphreys, a military installation south of the South Korean capital of Seoul.

Under the Constitution, the president is the commander in chief of the U.S. military, but technically can’t declare war without approval from Congress. Presidents have sidestepped Congress by ordering military actions without declaring war.

Congress passed the War Powers Act of 1973 after the Vietnam War to further limit the president’s authority to commit U.S. forces overseas.

The act allows the president to undertake military action only under three circumstances – a declaration of war, specific authority from Congress, or an attack on the United States.

Murphy said his resolution would give the president greater leeway than the War Powers Act because it would allow military action if there is an “imminent threat” to the United States.

Murphy said it’s unlikely Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would bring the resolution for a vote because he would see it “as something that could divide the (GOP) caucus.”

But he said the legislation could be attached to another bill, and Republicans would vote for it.

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