The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding a hearing Tuesday on the president's authority to order a nuclear strike against another country.
The hearing comes as President Donald Trump continues to exchange insults with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has overseen nuclear and missile development programs that have progressed faster than most global weapons experts anticipated.
For the first time in more than four decades, Congress will examine the president's authority to wage nuclear war. Existing procedures require the president to first consult with military and civilian leaders, but the final decision is made by the president.
Senator Bob Corker, arguably the most vocal Republican critic of Trump, will preside over the hearing. Corker said a number of lawmakers have raised questions about the process and deployment of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
'This discussion is long overdue,' Corker said when he announced the hearing.
Two Democratic lawmakers, Representative Ted Lieu and Senator Ed Markey, each have submitted legislation that would prohibit the president from ordering a preemptive nuclear attack without a declaration of war by Congress. The measures, though, have not advanced in the Republican-controlled Congress.
Corker said in an interview with the New York Times the president's heated rhetoric toward North Korea could further escalate tensions that could lead to World War III, prompting some nuclear weapons experts to welcome the hearing.
Stevens Institute of Technology's Alex Wellerstein, who has researched extensively about presidential nuclear authority, said he hopes the hearing 'might shed some light on aspects of the procedures for presidential use of nuclear weapons that I think really needs to be known and talked about.'