On Friday, President Barack Obama opted to veto a controversial bill that would allow families of the victims of the September 11th attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for allegedly supporting some of the terrorists involved, according to NBC News. Of the 19 terrorists who participated in the attack, 15 were from Saudi Arabia.
The act, commonly referred to as the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act,” passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate. The act would allow the families of September 11th victims to sue Saudi Arabia if it were legally proven that Saudi Arabia was in fact responsible for aiding or supporting the hijackers who crashed two planes into the World Trade Centers, one into the Pentagon, and another into an empty field in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001.
“I have deep sympathy for the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, who have suffered grievously,” Obama wrote in his veto message to Congress, according to The New York Times.
He added, however, that enacting the bill “would neither protect Americans from terrorist attacks nor improve the effectiveness of our response to such attacks.”
Obama also stated the passage of the bill would “create complications” in diplomatic relations with other countries and that the act, as it is currently written, “undermines core U.S. interests,” according to the Times.
The Times noted that a primary concern of the White House is that the bill could ultimately run the risk of increasing the odds that U.S. officials, military personal, and even business leaders could face legal action overseas.
— Abby Martin (@AbbyMartin) September 23, 2016
Earlier this week, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest discussed the bill and the possibility of a veto. He said Obama and other administration officials have had numerous conversations with members of the House and Senate in hopes that their concerns could prevail, according to the NBC.
“As we’ve made this case, members of Congress in both parties have indicated that they are open to the concerns that we’ve expressed — in many cases, they share them,” Earnest said at a press conference Tuesday, as reported by NBC. “And the real question for members of Congress will be whether or not they’re prepared to cast a vote that is consistent with the views and feelings that they express in private.”
The veto faced harsh criticism from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and conservative pundits.
“President Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act is shameful and will go down as one of the low points of his presidency,” reads a statement on the official Trump campaign website. “That President Obama would deny the parents, spouses and children of those we lost on that horrific day the chance to close this painful chapter in their lives is a disgrace.”
Can not believe! BREAKING! Obama veto bill that would allow victims and relatives of Sept. 11 terror attacks to sue Saudi Arabia pic.twitter.com/aR1doQrPkF
— Michael Harris Ph.D (@michaelharrisdr) September 23, 2016
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton did not publicly comment on the veto, but a spokesperson for her said Clinton would not have vetoed the bill if she were president, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The veto marks Obama’s 12th during his presidency, and all of the previous vetoes have held. He’s facing a much different scenario this time, however.
Obama would have to convince 34 of the 44 sitting Senate Democrats to change their minds and vote against the bill. That will be tough to swing considering the popularity of the bill.
Both Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Democratic New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who co-sponsored the bill, have stated that they believe they have the votes to override the veto, according to NBC.
The decision by Obama to veto the Saudi Arabia bill could prove problematic for Clinton as polls remain tight at both the national level and in several key battleground states.
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