Senate, House Democrats sign on to joint memorials seeking to avert nuclear war

OLYMPIA — State Democratic lawmakers have asked Congress to ensure the president does not have the sole authority to launch a nuclear strike, except in cases of retaliation to a nuclear attack.

The state House and Senate each presented memorials to the federal government and president requesting to make it U.S. policy not to use nuclear weapons first.

The House document, Joint Memorial 4008, was introduced by Reps. Steve Tharinger, D-Port Townsend; Gael Tarleton, D-Seattle; and Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle. Tharinger represents District 24, which covers Jefferson and Clallam counties and part of Grays Harbor County.

“Your Memorialists respectfully pray that Congress take appropriate steps to move back from the brink of nuclear war by establishing a system of checks and balances to ensure that the President shall no longer have the sole, unchecked authority to launch nuclear weapons, except in circumstances of retaliation to a nuclear attack,” the memorial reads.

Senate Joint Memorial 8006 was heard in the Senate Committee on State Government, Tribal Relations & Elections on Friday.

The document cites Washington’s unique role as the home to the largest collection of nuclear weapons in the Western Hemisphere; the trillions of dollars required to update and maintain the U.S. arsenal; the global “catastrophic human, environmental, and economic consequences” of a nuclear strike; and the “inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and to live a life free from the threat of nuclear weapons” for all Americans, as reasons for Congress to take action.

“Ever since the beginning of the Cold War, our greatest fear has been that nuclear weapons of some nation would fall into the hands of a leader who was deranged, psychopathic or mentally ill,” said Bruce Amundson with Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility. “We’re much too close to that right now.”

The prime sponsor of the Senate version, Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D-Beacon Hill, said, “It’s particularly important for the state of Washington to take point on this.

“Because we have more nuclear weapons in our state than any other state … that makes us a prime target.”

Sens. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, David Frockt, D-Seattle, Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, and Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, co-sponsored the Senate document.

“With the Trident base at Bangor, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the naval base in Bremerton, Boeing: we are targeted in the eventuality of a full-scale nuclear attack,” Amundson said. “This Puget Sound area would be incinerated.”

If approved by the full Legislature, copies of the memorial would be distributed to President Donald Trump; the president of the U.S. Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and each member of Congress from the state of Washington.

“I think we need to not just lead by example for the benefit of the world, but also for self-preservation sake,” Hasegawa said.

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This story is part of a series of news reports from the Washington State Legislature provided through a reporting internship sponsored by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation.

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