Published On: Thu, Sep 29th, 2016

Congress unites to override Obama’s veto of 9/11 victim bill, JASTA, allowing families to sue Saudis

Congress overwhelmingly rejected President Obama’s veto of legislation allowing families of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks to sue the government of Saudi Arabia, handing him the first veto override of his presidency during his final year in office.

The Senate took the first step Wednesday, voting 97-1 to override Obama’s veto of the 9/11 bill. The House quickly followed with a 348-77 vote.

The sweeping popularity of the legislation, Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), made it basically inevitable that the measure would ultimately become law, despite fierce objections from the Obama administration.

“This legislation is really about pursuing justice,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), one of the chief sponsors of the bill, along with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “The families have already suffered too much. They’ve already suffered untold tragedy, of course, and they deserve to find a path to closure that only justice can provide.”

donkeyhotey donkeyhotey.wordpress.com

donkeyhotey donkeyhotey.wordpress.com

Schumer said “overriding a presidential veto is something we don’t take lightly.”

“But it was important in this case that the families of the victims of 9/11 be allowed to pursue justice,” Schumer added. “Even if that pursuit causes some diplomatic discomforts.”

Harry Reid caricature by donkeyhotey donkeyhotey@wordpress.com

Harry Reid caricature by donkeyhotey [email protected]

The White House “unleashed a torrent of anger at Congress,” notes Politico, with press secretary Josh Earnest arguing that voting to override was “an abdication of their basic responsibilities as elected representatives of the American people.”

“This is the single most embarrassing thing the United States Senate as done possibly since 1983,” Earnest said shortly after the Senate vote but before the House vote. “To have members of the United States Senate only recently informed of the negative impact of this bill on our servicemembers and our diplomats is in itself embarrassing.”

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) stood alone in the Senate with the President.

In a letter made public Wednesday, Obama disclosed that he and Reid spoke directly about the president’s concerns about the bill.

“JASTA sweeps more broadly than 9/11 or Saudi Arabia, and its far-reaching implications would threaten to undermine important principles that protect the United States, including our U.S. Armed Forces and other officials overseas, without making us any safer,” Obama wrote to Reid.

Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said he would vote to override Obama’s veto, but said on Wednesday that his vote was “not without concern” of the “potential unintended consequences” of the legislation.

The cross at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The cross at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

“There is a concern of unintended consequences, including irresponsible applications to U.S. international activities by other countries,” Cardin said. “While I have faith and confidence in the American legal system, the same faith does not necessarily extend to the fairness of the legal systems of other countries that may claim that they are taking similar action against America when they’re not.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) also aired “tremendous concerns” what the legislation would do to the principle of “sovereign immunity” for foreign governments, although he said the 9/11 families “do deserve an outlet … of seeking justice in this particular case.”

JASTA has long been viewed as focusing on Saudi Arabia’s alleged role on Sept. 11, 2001. The so-called “28 pages,” part of a 2002 probe that was declassified in July, included the links between Saudis in the United States and two of the 9/11 hijackers.

“We are still learning the facts, but there is mounting evidence that the Saudi government — or at least operations and operatives within the Saudi government — aided and abetted one of the most massive crimes in the United States,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Wednesday.

He continued: “In our system, the truth behind those facts deserves to be presented in court — a court of law where fairness and justice will be assured.”

September 11 Day of Service and Remembrance banner from Whitehouse.gov

September 11 Day of Service and Remembrance banner from Whitehouse.gov

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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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