Obama to veto 9/11 victims’ bill

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says President Obama is expected to veto bill allowing 9/11 victims' families to sue Saudi Arabia.

Ben Ariel ,

Barack Obama
Barack Obama

President Barack Obama is expected to veto a bill that would allow families of the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to sue the Saudi Arabian government, a White House spokesman said Monday, according to The Washington Post.

The House of Representatives approved the bill last Friday, 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).

The president has opposed the bill, which would let courts waive claims to foreign sovereign immunity in cases involving terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, over fears that foreign governments might exploit the move to drag American officials into court.

At the same time, noted The Washington Post, congressional leaders have already suggested they would try to override a veto, and probably have sufficient support in both chambers to do so.

"It's not hard to imagine other countries using this law as an excuse to haul U.S. diplomats, U.S. service members or even U.S. companies into courts all around the world," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at his daily briefing Monday, just hours before Obama was scheduled to meet with the congressional leaders of both parties at the White House.

"The president feels quite strongly about this," Earnest added. "I do anticipate the president will veto the legislation when it is presented to him."

The House passed the legislation by voice vote Friday, with members calling it a “moral imperative” to allow victims’ families to seek justice for the deaths of loved ones. Obama and other political leaders on Sunday marked the 15th anniversary of the attacks that brought down the World Trade Center towers and damaged the Pentagon.

On Sunday, a group of September 11 victims' relatives sent an open letter to Obama, imploring him not to "slam the door shut and abandon us" by vetoing the bill, according to The Washington Post.

There are concerns about how the measure might complicate relations with Saudi Arabia. Earlier this summer, Congress released a set of previously classified pages from a congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks, exploring allegations that Saudi officials supported the perpetrators. But the pages shed no significant new light on Saudi Arabia's alleged ties to the attacks.

Saudi Arabia has been lobbying hard against the legislation, even threatening to sell off U.S. assets if the measure becomes law. Supporters of the bill have repeatedly argued that if Saudi officials did nothing wrong, then the government has no reason to oppose the measure, noted The Washington Post.

Earnest said Obama was likely to explain his objections to congressional leaders Monday, adding the president "has a pretty persuasive case to make."