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Congress Must Vote on Bombing Assad Regime, Lee Tells Obama

If the Obama administration wants to bomb the Assad regime, it must first get a declaration of war from Congress, Sen. Mike Lee said Wednesday.

“If President Obama and his advisors want to increase the involvement of the United States in Syria in any manner – including attacks against the Assad regime – they have a constitutional responsibility to ask for a declaration of war from Congress,” the Utah Republican and tea party favorite said in a statement after The Washington Post reported top national security officials are mulling over options against the Syrian government.

Up to this point, the Obama administration has confined its role in Syria to supporting moderate rebel groups and bombing terrorist groups in the region. But with peace talks halted between the U.S. and Russia, and Russian-backed government forces closing in on the rebel territory in Aleppo, the administration is considering new military options. In the statement, Lee warned that airstrikes against the Assad regime “carries potentially cataclysmic consequences which the American people have never debated in Congress.”

Obama has sought congressional authorization to bomb the Assad regime before, in 2013 after the Assad regime used chemical weapons. The military strikes, which Congress never voted to authorize, were never conducted because a deal was reached for the Syrian government to turn over the weapons, allowing lawmakers to avoid taking a difficult vote.

If the administration moves forward without congressional approval this time around, Lee said GOP leaders must reconvene Congress early. Both chambers are currently scheduled to reconvene after the election.

“Should President Obama move ahead without authorization, then Congress must be called back into session to fulfill its obligation to debate and determine whether our nation should once again go to war,” Lee said.

Lee is a relatively lonely voice on holding war authorization votes, particularly just before an election. Congress has also avoided voting on a new war authorization against the so-called Islamic State.