This September, President Barack Obama vetoed a bill passed by Congress that would allow the families of victims of 9/11 to sue the government of Saudi Arabia. The bill would amend a law passed in the 1970’s that prohibits Americans from suing foreign governments. It was originally vetoed by the White House because it would, “invite consequential decisions to be made based upon incomplete information and risk having different courts reaching different conclusions about the culpability of individual foreign governments and their role in terrorist activities directed against the United States — which is neither an effective nor a coordinated way for us to respond to indications that a foreign government might have been behind a terrorist attack.”
Congress, however, overrode the first presidential veto of Obama’s administration with a 97-1 vote in the Senate and a 348-77 vote in the House.
“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,” said Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York.
The bill was passed due to long-standing suspicions that the Saudi government was in some way involved in the 9/11 attacks. This suspicion is due to the majority of the attackers being from Saudi Arabia, as well as a report that references how some individual officials might have provided support to the terrorists.
Since the vote, at least 20 senators have signed a letter expressing regret or reservations about the broader implications of the law. However, without a widely supported amendment, nothing can be done to change the bill.
– Ethan King