President Barack Obama is set to veto a bill that would allow the families of victims of September 11th sue Saudi Arabia for their country’s role in the deadly terror attack that killed over 3,000 Americans.
In doing so, Obama is defying both the will of the American people and a bipartisan Congressional effort for justice — but there’s still a chance for justice.
Unlike most of Obama’s executive actions, this veto is unpopular with both liberals and conservatives — and should outraged citizens put enough pressure on their representatives, it’s possible Congress could see enough votes to overturn the president’s veto.
The House passed the legislation by voice vote two weeks ago, approximately four months after the measure cleared the Senate despite vehement objections from Saudi Arabia. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals.
The legislation would give victims’ families the right to sue in U.S. court for any role that elements of the Saudi government may have played in the 2001 attacks that killed thousands in New York, the Washington, D.C., area and Pennsylvania.
The White House has signaled Obama would veto the legislation over the potential for it to backfire and apprehension about undermining a longstanding yet strained relationship with a critical U.S. ally in the Middle East. The Obama administration has warned that if U.S. citizens can take the Saudis to court, then a foreign country could in turn sue the United States.
Texas Rep. Ted Poe said the U.S. government should be more concerned about the families of the victims than “diplomatic niceties.” Poe said he doesn’t know if the Saudi government had a role in the Sept. 11 attacks.
“That’s for a jury of Americans to decide,” Poe said.
Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, both Democrats, called on Obama to sign the bill. “If Saudi Arabia had no involvement with the attacks, it has nothing to fear from litigation,” they wrote in a letter Friday.
The bill’s proponents disputed the argument that there will be a boomerang effect if the measure is signed into law. New York Rep. Peter King, another sponsor, said foreign governments cannot look the other way if terrorist activities are being plotted or launched from their countries.
Terry Strada, national head of 9/11 Families United For Justice Against Terrorism, dismissed fears the U.S. could be the target of lawsuits.
“If we’re not funding terrorist organizations and killing people, then we don’t have anything to worry about,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.