Congress rejects Obama's veto of 9/11 bill

For the first time in Obama's tenure, Congress overwhelmingly rejects his veto of a bill. 9/11 victims will now be permitted to sue Saudis.

Ben Ariel,

Twin Towers September 11 attack
Twin Towers September 11 attack
Reuters

The United States Congress on Wednesday overwhelmingly rejected President Barack Obama's veto of legislation allowing relatives of the victims of the September 11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia, Reuters reported.

The House of Representatives voted 348-76 against the veto, just hours after the Senate rejected it 97-1.

The rejection of the veto means the "Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act" will become law. This is the first veto override of Obama’s eight-year presidency.

The legislation was approved by the House of Representatives earlier this month, after it had been passed by the Senate in May. The legislation is sponsored by, among others, Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Obama last Friday followed through with his threat to veto the controversial legislation which Saudi Arabia has lobbied hard against.

The vote to override the veto was a blow to Obama and to Saudi Arabia, one of the United States' longest-standing allies in the Arab world.

Obama's 11 previous vetoes were all sustained. But this time almost all of his strongest supporters in Congress opposed him in one of their last actions before leaving Washington to campaign for the November 8 election, noted Reuters.

"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, even if that pursuit causes some diplomatic discomforts," Senator Schumer said in a statement.

Obama had argued that the bill, known as JASTA, could expose U.S. companies, troops and officials to lawsuits, and alienate important allies at a time of global unrest. He called Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and wrote a personal letter to him explaining that he strongly believed enacting JASTA into law would be detrimental to U.S. interests. Reid became the only senator to side with Obama.

A White House spokesman slammed the Senate's vote.

"This is the single most embarrassing thing this United States Senate has done possibly since 1983," spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters, according to Reuters.

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter urged lawmakers to sustain the veto, and in an unusual move, CIA Director John Brennan issued a statement before Wednesday's votes saying the bill had "grave implications" for national security.

Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton's vice presidential running mate, and Bernie Sanders, an independent and former Democratic White House contender, did not vote, noted Reuters.


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