The Senate voted on Wednesday to override President Obama’s veto of legislation allowing lawsuits against foreign sponsors of terrorism.
The House is expected to follow suit within hours, making this the first veto of Obama’s presidency to be overturned by Congress.
Last week Obama vetoed the bill explaining that the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act” (JASTA) would erode the doctrine of sovereign immunity and expose the US to lawsuits around the world.
The bill would have allowed the families of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi Arabian government over its alleged support for the terrorists who carried out the attacks.
JASTA, which passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate, allows US judges to waive sovereign immunity claims when dealing with acts of terrorism committed on American soil – potentially allowing lawsuits against Saudi Arabia over the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Fifteen of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationals.
The issue appears to cross party lines, with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) pushing for a veto override while Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) is concerned it would “end up exporting [US] foreign policy to trial lawyers.”
Today is an important one for the widows & children of those murdered on 9/11. As always, I stand with them. #JASTA
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) September 28, 2016
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has argued that allowing JASTA to become law could lead to US being sued in foreign courts and subjected to an “intrusive discovery process.”
This could put Washington in the “difficult position of choosing between disclosing classified or otherwise sensitive information or suffering adverse rulings and potentially large damage awards for our refusal to do so,” Carter wrote to House Armed Services Committee chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) earlier this week, according to the Military Times.
The House is expected hold a veto override vote later on Wednesday.