Undeterred By Veto Threat, Senate Passes 9/11-Saudi Bill

Sept 11 Anniversary

A woman walks along the edge of the North Pool at the 9/11 Memoria in New York. (AP Photo/Justin Lane, Pool)

Setting up a likely veto fight and opening a potential Pandora’s Box, the U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that allows victims of 9/11 to sue Saudi Arabia for any role the government may have played in the attacks.

The bipartisan Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act was approved by unanimous consent, despite protest from President Barack Obama, who threatened to veto the bill.

Obama recently argued, “If we open up the possibility that individuals…can routinely start suing other governments, then we are also opening up the United States to being continually sued by individuals in other countries.” Some interpreted this as a veiled reference to the United States’ controversial anti-terror policy, including its broad use of killer drone strikes.

The bill amends the federal judicial code to narrow the scope to permit American victims of U.S.-based attacks, or their families, to sue foreign governments in U.S. courts for aiding an act of terrorism.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest reiterated Obama’s opposition on Tuesday, telling reporters that “it’s difficult to imagine the president signing this legislation.”

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who sponsored the legislation along with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), was undettered. “I think we easily get the two-thirds override if the president should veto,” Schumer said.

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives have introduced their own version of the bill.

Both Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton also broke with the president in support of the bill. Sanders went so far as to call for the declassification of the controversial “28 pages” of the 9/11 Commission report, which is said to detail Saudi ties to the 2001 terrorist attack.

James Clapper, Obama’s director of National Intelligence, has indicated that document will be made public as early as June—which could prove to be problematic for the U.S.’s Gulf ally.

“Look, if the Saudis did not participate in this terrorism, they have nothing to fear about going to court,” Schumer said Tuesday. “If they did, they should be held accountable.”

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