Just before the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill by voice vote to let families of 9/11 victims sue Saudi Arabia. The Senate also unanimously passed the legislation in May, which means the bipartisan bill is now headed to President Obama’s desk — where it could very well face a veto.
The president hasn’t said he will definitely nix the legislation, but the administration has repeatedly pushed back against the bill, which allows Americans to sue countries for funding terrorism on U.S. soil and to seek monetary damages from individuals accused of bankrolling terrorists. The White House has argued it could expose the United States and its citizens to lawsuits from overseas. It’s also bound to complicate relations with Saudi Arabia, a key, if controversial, partner in the region. The Saudis definitely do not like this bill and have threatened to liquidate billions of American assets if it becomes law (though it also puts the petrostate at economic risk, too). “We believe there needs to be more careful consideration of the potential unintended consequences of its enactment before the House considers the legislation,” a White House official told The Hill. “We would welcome opportunities to further engage with the Congress on that discussion.”
The families of 9/11 victims have long fought for this law. Saudi Arabia has denied any involvement in the terror plot, though 15 of the 19 hijackers were from the country. In July, Congress declassified 28 pages from the 9/11 Commission report that detailed the Saudi government’s potential involvement. The evidence didn’t implicate high-level Saudi officials, but it certainly didn’t silence suspicions of some ties to Al Qaeda.
The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, the formal name of the legislation, also has rare bipartisan support. That might prove meaningful, reports The Hill, if the president does veto the bill — Congress may actually be able to get the two-thirds vote needed to override it.