Obama blasts Congress for overriding veto

President Obama says Congress move to override his veto of 9/11 bill was political.

Ben Ariel,

Barack Obama
Barack Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday blasted Congress’s decision to override his veto of a bill that allows families of victims of the September 11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia.

Speaking to CNN, Obama said lawmakers made a "political vote" by choosing to override the veto.

"It's an example of why sometimes you have to do what's hard. And, frankly, I wish Congress here had done what's hard," he said.

"If you're perceived as voting against 9/11 families right before an election, not surprisingly, that's a hard vote for people to take. But it would have been the right thing to do ... And it was, you know, basically a political vote," Obama told CNN, adding that Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the legislation was a bad idea.

Earlier, 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.

On Wednesday he called Congress's move a "mistake."

"I understand why it happened. Obviously all of us still carry the scars and trauma of 9/11. Nobody more than this 9/11 generation that has fought on our behalf in the aftermath of 9/11," he told CNN.

He added that the victims deserve support and compensation, which is why the administration set up a victim's compensation fund. But he also said he doesn't believe the ability to sue Saudi Arabia will be good for the long term future of the U.S.

"What this legislation did is it said if a private citizen believes that having been victimized by terrorism -- that another country didn't do enough to stop one of its citizens, for example, in engaging in terrorism -- that they can file a personal lawsuit, a private lawsuit in court," he told CNN.

"And the problem with that is that if we eliminate this notion of sovereign immunity, then our men and women in uniform around the world could potentially start seeing ourselves subject to reciprocal laws."

He added that the U.S. has set up what is called "status of forces agreements" that ensure that when the U.S. deploys troops, they're not vulnerable to these kinds of private lawsuits. And other countries agreed to do that because the United States reciprocated with them.

"The concern that I've had has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia per se or my sympathy for 9/11 families," Obama stressed. "It has to do with me not wanting a situation in which we're suddenly exposed to liabilities for all the work that we're doing all around the world."

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