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Sen. Mike Lee of Utah to Vote Against Syria Strike

By Lisa Barron and Kathleen Walter   |   Monday, 09 Sep 2013 08:17 PM

Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah says he plans to vote against the Obama administration's resolution to launch a military strike against Syria, explaining that he has not heard any explanation as to why such action is needed to protect American national security.

"We haven't been attacked. What we have been told is that we need to stay out of the Syrian civil war and I agree with that," he told Newsmax, adding, "But it's inconsistent with the notion that we should stay out of the Syrian civil war to say let's attack the Assad regime and, moreover, what they're promising to do, what they would like to do, is to degrade the Assad regime's ability to carry out subsequent chemical weapons attacks. But they can't promise us that their proposed course of action will make subsequent attacks any less likely than doing nothing."

Lee said he is in favor of the Russian proposal that Syria put its chemical weapons under international control in exchange for a U.S. promise not to take military action. "Well if Syria were in fact willing to do this, it would be fantastic," he explained.

"We would be able to avoid having to inject ourselves into this dangerous, bloody, protracted civil war and we could also make the risk of a subsequent chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that much less likely. We'll see whether they're willing to do it, but if they would do it, that would be fantastic."

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As for how Lee and other lawmakers would respond if Obama took unilateral action in the event he does not receive Congressional authority on Syria, Lee said, "Well, first of all it would be a stunning act for the president to take military action after requesting authorization for that same act from Congress and if Congress subsequently denied that authorization."

He added, "I generally don't answer questions about impeachment in the abstract, particularly since I serve in the Senate and impeach proceedings, if any, would have to begin in the House of Representatives."

Asked why the Republican party appears to be split on the issue, especially along tea party lines, Lee responded, " Well, there is a group of us here in Washington that have been elected just within the last few years who feel strongly that the United States government has expanded beyond its originally intended boundaries for far too long, and that has cost us a lot in terms of American blood and treasure, and so we want to make sure that we don't get involved militarily except where it's necessary to protect Americans."

"So there's a group of us here that doesn't want to do that in the absence of those circumstance sand we don't see those circumstances here," he added.

Lee said, however, that the split doesn't necessarily mean the GOP is beginning to back away from its normally hawkish stance. "We're dealing now with a different kind of military conflict," he explained. "We're being asked to inject the United States into a military conflict that is essentially a call to involve us in a civil war within another country and although we have faced somewhat similar calls for intervention in the past, this one's different and we don't want to get involved in this one."

Addressing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad' s threats of retaliation against a U.S. Strike, made in an interview Monday with CBS News' Charlie Rose, Lee said, "It is, of course, one of many things that we've got to consider in response to the president's request for approving military intervention in the Syrian civil war. The fact that you shouldn't just go and kick a hornets' nest and expect to be able to walk away casually without any repercussions is something that few people would dispute. And so, yeah, that's one of many things we've got to take into account and one of many reasons why we've got to take this very, very seriously before we go and involve ourselves directly in someone else's civil war."

Lee acknowledged that he does not believe Congress will approve the resolution, saying, "We've got conservative Republicans, like me, who are strongly against it. We've got liberal Democrats, like my cousin Tom Udall from New Mexico, who are strongly against it. It cuts across party lines and in both houses of Congress there are just a lot of people who are really concerned about this."

"And the American people are with us," he added. "The American people are saying enough is enough and we can't see that we have any business getting involved in the Syrian civil war."

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