Congress voted Wednesday to reject President Barack Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act in an override of 97-1. The legislation would amend a 1976 law which granted other countries immunity from U.S. lawsuits. As reported by Western Journal, the override of the veto will open the opportunity for families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia. The decision has prompted harsh criticism from The White House.
“I would venture to say that this is the single most embarrassing thing that the United States Senate has done, possibly, since 1983,” Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One.
Earnest’s remark irritated lawmakers, some of whom broke into applause on the House floor after the vote successfully passed.
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“Asking us to stand between 9/11 families and their day in court is asking a lot,” said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.
The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act now makes it possible for suits in American courts against state sponsors of terror attacks committed inside the US.
“This is a decision I do not take lightly,” said Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York. “This bill is near and dear to my heart as a New Yorker because it would allow the victims of 9/11 to pursue some small measure of justice, finally giving them a legal avenue to pursue foreign sponsors of the terrorist attack that took from them the lives of their loved ones.”
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The override marks the first time that Congress overruled one of Obama’s vetoes. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid was the the only who voted to sustain the president’s veto.
Obama opposed the legislation, saying it could open the U.S. government to lawsuits for actions committed by Americans overseas, including military service members and diplomats. He warned that JASTA would improperly involve U.S. courts in national security matters.
“To have members of the United States Senate only recently informed of the negative impact of this bill on our service members and on our diplomats is in itself embarrassing,” Earnest said.
“For those senators then to move forward on overriding the president’s veto that would prevent those negative consequences is an abdication of their basic responsibilities of representatives of the American people,” he added. “Hopefully, these senators are going to have to answer their own conscience and their constituents as they account for their actions today.”
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, on behalf of the Donald Trump campaign, criticized the president’s veto, saying it “was an insult to the families of those we lost on 9/11, and I congratulate the Congress for righting that terrible wrong.”
It is possible Saudi Arabia would sell its billions of dollars worth in American assets to avoid having them seized in court. The Middle Eastern country has already warned the Obama Administration about this potential move.
Regardless, many saw the override as a victory for justice.
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“The victims of 9/11 have fought for 15 long years to make sure that those responsible for the senseless murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children, and injuries to thousands others, are held accountable. JASTA becoming law is a tremendous victory toward that effort,” said Terry Strada, National Chair of the 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism. “We rejoice in this triumph and look forward to our day in court and a time when we may finally get more answers regarding who was truly behind the attacks.”
The final tally of both House and Senate was 348-77 in favor of the override.
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