GOP Lawmakers Concerned with 9/11 Law to Sue Saudi Arabia

NY Daily News - October 01, 2016

by Adam Edelman

Just one day after helping to usher in a historic override of President Obama's veto of legislation that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, the top two Republicans in Congress admitted Thursday they had concerns about the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorists Act.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned that the bill — which would allow survivors and families of those murdered in the Sept. 11 attacks to sue the Saudi Arabian government for its alleged involvement — could have "unintended ramifications," the exact same counterargument Obama used in vetoing the legislation in the first place.

McConnell urged "further discussions" for lawmakers to fix the measure and scolded the White House for not explaining the potential drawbacks of the bill earlier.

"I told the President the other day that this is an example of an issue that we should have talked about much earlier," McConnell said. "It appears as if there may be some unintended ramifications."

"Everybody was aware of who the potential beneficiaries were but nobody really had focused on the downside in terms of our international relationships," McConnell said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) added he agreed the legislation needed a "fix." "We want to make sure the 9/11 victims and their families have their day in court," Ryan told reporters. "At the same time, I would like to think that there may be some work to be done to protect our service members overseas from any kind of legal ensnarements that occur, any kind of retribution."

Congress on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to override an Obama veto, making the bill the law and giving the families of 9/11 victims a huge victory in their quest for justice. It was the first time Congress has overridden an Obama veto.

Obama, as well as a number of foreign policy experts, had long warned that the bill could undermine sovereign immunity and backfire by making it legal for foreign governments or individuals in foreign countries to sue U.S. government or military officials for damages for injuries or deaths caused by U.S. military actions.

They also said it would put a huge strain on America's relationship with Saudi Arabia, a key Middle Eastern ally, and could harm the Saudis cooperation with the U.S. in fighting terrorism. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Thursday hit back at McConnell and Ryan, admonishing them for not having heeded Obama's warnings.

"I think what we've seen in the United States Congress is a case of rapid-onset buyer's remorse," he said at the daily press briefing. "What's true in elementary school is true in the United States Congress: Ignorance is not an excuse."

With News Wire Services.