Senate to Vote on Override of President Obama's Veto of Justice Against Terrorism Act

NY Daily News - September 28, 2016

by Cameron Joseph

The Senate will vote on whether to override President Obama's veto of the Justice Against Terrorism Act on Wednesday, setting up a make-or-break step for legislation long demanded by families of 9/11 victims.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced the timing of the Wednesday vote Monday afternoon from the Senate floor, after having Obama's Friday evening veto read into the official Senate records.

"The Senate will vote on passage of the bill, the objections of the president to the contrary notwithstanding, with no intervening action or debate," he said Monday afternoon.

The vote will test whether the legislation can clear the two thirds majority it needs to become law. The act would allow survivors and families of the Sept. 11 attacks sue the Saudi Arabian government for its alleged involvement in funding the 9/11 attackers, 15 of 19 whom were Saudi nationals.

Obama opposed it because of concerns about damaging relations with the Saudis, a key Middle Eastern ally, as well as because of worries that the law will backfire by allowing other countries to sue the U.S. and top American officials for programs they view as illegal, like the U.S. drone strike program. Obama, and some GOP foreign policy leaders, worry that the law would damage sovereign immunity, the legal doctrine where countries can't sue other countries for violating the law.

The bill cruised through both the House and Senate by voice vote, without opposition. But in recent days some senior Democrats have begun echoing Obama's concerns about the potential fallout of passing the bill, making it less than certain that it will definitely pass into law.

But pro-JASTA lawmakers are publicly projecting confidence that the bill will sail through Congress.

"We’re on the cusp of making JASTA the law of the land, and allowing the families to pursue justice. I’m confident that members of both parties will come together to override the veto," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the bill's chief Senate sponsor, said in a statement to the Daily News.