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Senate Passes Bill Letting 9/11 Families Sue Saudi Arabia — Obama Threatens Veto

The United States Senate just passed a bill that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, the Washington Examiner is reporting.

The bill, passed by voice vote, received no opposition on the Senate floor. But President Barack Obama is opposed to it, and House Speaker Paul Ryan recently sent a “strong signal” that he will block it in the House.

The legislation comes in the aftermath of reports that the government of Saudi Arabia may have been involved in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which killed nearly 3,000 Americans. As 60 Minutes reported in April, the U.S. government may have “soft-pedaled” the Saudi government’s involvement.

According to 60 Minutes, 28 pages from the official 9/11 report were issued classified prior to its release. Those pages “have to do with 9/11 and the possible existence of a Saudi support network for the hijackers while they were in the U.S.”

Bob Graham, who was a U.S. Senator from Florida at the time and chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, was asked if he believed the 9/11 terrorists were supported by Saudi Arabia.

He answered, “Substantially.”

Graham further told 60 Minutes that he thinks that Saudi Arabia’s alleged involvement was “soft-pedaled to protect a delicate relationship with a complicated” government system, which entails sensitivity on the part of the U.S. when dealing with them.

The 60 Minutes report apparently played a role in the Senate’s vote today.

However, the bill is not without its complications. Fox News is reporting that Saudi Arabia “has threatened to pull billions of dollars from the U.S. economy if the plan is enacted.”

The legislation “gives victims’ families the right to sue in U.S. court for any role that elements of the Saudi government may have played” in the 9/11 attacks, says Fox News.

Saudi Arabia Bill Had Bipartisan Support

The bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). Schumer believes that if the bill is allowed to come up for a vote in the House, it will pass. He further stated to the Examiner that should it reach Obama’s desk and he veto it, as he has promised, both Houses of Congress could “easily” get the two-thirds support necessary to override that veto.

Schumer added that the bill it not specifically aimed at the Saudi government, and so if they “did not participate in this terrorism they have nothing to fear about going to court,” he said.

“This is simply designed to provide theses families access to justice,” Cornyn added.

Saudi Arabia is currently protected from lawsuits under “sovereign immunity,” the Examiner explained, “but the bill would provide an exception in cases where a government is tied to terrorist attacks that kill people on U.S. soil.”

Senators talk to 9/11 family members

Meanwhile, the Saudi government denies that it played any role at all in the 9/11 attacks. Furthermore, they are threatening to “liquidate” their U.S. assets if it becomes law. But Cornyn views that as a “hollow threat,” according to the Examiner.

In April, CNN reported that White House press secretary Josh Earnst warned that such a bill could be a “significant risk” if other nations adopted similar laws.

“It’s difficult to imagine a scenario where the President would sign it,” Earnst said.

Today, Earnst warned of “unintended consequences,” saying that President Obama “continues to harbor serious concerns” about this legislation, according to Fox News.

What do you think? Should families of the 9/11 victims be allowed to sue Saudi Arabia? Be sure to let us know what you think in the comments section below.

[Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]