With Republican-led opposition vowing to override his action, President Barack Obama on Friday vetoed a bill allowing the families of 9/11 terrorist attack victims to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. courts.
The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act would provide an exception to the Obama-supported doctrine of “sovereign immunity,” in which countries are not in another country’s courts.
Obama’s veto was denounced by the families of 9/11 victims.
“We are outraged and dismayed at the President’s veto of JASTA and the unconvincing and unsupportable reasons that he offers as explanation. No matter how much the Saudi lobbying and propaganda machine may argue otherwise, JASTA is a narrowly drawn statute that restores longstanding legal principles that have enjoyed bipartisan support for decades,” the group 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism said in a statement.
The statement suggested the families believe they will win the override battle.
“We are deeply grateful for the unanimous bipartisan support that JASTA has in Congress, and we look forward to the Senate and House fulfilling their commitments by quickly overriding this veto,” it said.
Friday was the deadline for action by Obama, who has been hoping that although the legislation was approved in a voice vote in both houses of Congress, the White House could prevail upon enough legislators to support the veto.
Overriding a presidential veto requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress.
Obama has insisted that although the bill gives 9/11 families the chance they have wanted to sue Saudi Arabia, the U.S. might lose the immunity from lawsuits it currently has in other nations.
The Senate is first to act to override.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said action will come quickly.
“It is really inexplicable to me that the president would talk about vetoing this opportunity for the victims of 9/11 and their families to be able to make their case in court,” he said last week. “I would love to have him sign the legislation into law, but if he decides to veto it, I hope he does it quickly so we can just as quickly vote to override that veto. There is no reason why we need to make these families wait any longer.”
Many Democrats support the bill.
“The families of the victims of 9/11 deserve their day in court, and justice for those families shouldn’t be thrown overboard because of diplomatic concerns,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
“If the Saudis did nothing wrong, they should not fear this legislation,” he added. “If they were culpable in 9/11, they should be held accountable.”
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