WASHINGTON, D.C. (WVEC)-- Congressional lawmakers are raising big questions about President Trump and his ability to use nuclear weapons.

With tensions rising over North Korea, members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee challenged the decades-old presidential authority to deploy nukes.

When it comes to the use of nuclear weapons, it is not just some academic question, but one with potential real life or death consequences, with Russia, the United States and North Korea.

Between all three counties, that's more than 1,900 nuclear warheads.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Democrats were especially blunt, when discussing this issue as it pertains to President Trump.

"We are concerned that the President of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic that he might order a nuclear strike that is wildly out of step with U.S. national security interests," said Sen. Chris Murphy.

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine pressed further.

"I'm interested in understanding whether there is a widely shared view of what this line between a lawful or an unlawful order would be," asked Kaine.

Retired Air Force General Robert Kehler, the former commander of United States Strategic Command responded: "There's two tests. It has to come from someone who has command authority and second it has to meet the legal test of the law of armed conflict."

Republican Senator Jim Risch of Idaho made clear, though, that President Trump would do whatever he feels he need to, to defend the country. And he's within in his rights to do so.

"The President of the United States is going to make this decision and he's going to make it quite quickly, if he has to," he said.

This was the first time either the Senate or House Foreign Relations Committee has addressed the issue of presidential authority to use nuclear weapons since 1976.