The Utah Republican said reports that the administration is considering using airstrikes to target the Assad regime — as part of a broader consideration of new options to end the country's civil war — would represent "a major departure from our current strategy." 
 
ADVERTISEMENT
"[It] carries potentially cataclysmic consequences which the American people have never debated in Congress," he said in a statement. "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 Washington Post reported that a Cabinet-level meeting to discuss potential options had been scheduled for Wednesday, though whether President Obama would sign off on additional military force — something he has been hesitant to do — is unclear. 
 
With lawmakers out of Washington until after the November elections, Lee added that if Obama moves "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.”
 
Obama previously flirted with using airstrikes against the Syrian government in 2013, before ultimately reversing course amid questionable support from Congress and the international community. 
 
Any effort to pass an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) that is specific to the ongoing war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has failed to gain momentum in the Senate amid a myriad of policy and political divisions. 
 
Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation COVID-19 workplace complaints surge; unions rip administration Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks MORE (R-Ky.) fast-tracked wide-ranging legislation from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) earlier this year, though it hadn't been scheduled for floor time. It also likely doesn't have the support needed to clear the Senate amid opposition from Democrats and some libertarian-leaning Republicans. 
 
Meanwhile, a handful of Democratic senators tried to get a ban on ground troops against ISIS included in an annual policy bill last year, and a separate bipartisan AUMF from Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane Flake'Never Trump' Republicans: Fringe, or force to be reckoned with? The Memo: Can the Never Trumpers succeed? Former GOP Sen. Jeff Flake says he will not vote for Trump MORE (R-Ariz.) and Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Health Care: Sewage testing gives clues of coronavirus | White House says Trump would take hydroxychloroquine again | Trump marks 'very sad milestone' of 100K virus deaths 14 things to know today about coronavirus The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Unemployment claims now at 41 million with 2.1 million more added to rolls; Topeka mayor says cities don't have enough tests for minorities and homeless communities MORE (Va.), the Democratic vice presidential nominee, is languishing in the Foreign Relations Committee. 
 
Approval of airstrikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad could add new life to a stalemated debate. 
 
Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerRomney is only GOP senator not on new White House coronavirus task force McConnell, Romney vie for influence over Trump's trial RNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' MORE (R-Tenn.) has repeatedly warned that while he thinks the administration currently has the authority it needs to fight ISIS, going on offense against the Syrian government would be a different conversation. 
 
“If they decided to go against al-Assad, then they would need additional authorities. And we stand ready if that’s something they wish to do, to debate that. But thus far, they haven’t made that decision," the Foreign Relations chairman told the Military Times late last year.