A bill that would allow terror victims of 9/11 to sue Saudi Arabia was approved by Congress despite veto threats from President Obama.
The House of Representatives passed the bill by voice vote on Friday, months after the Senate passed it in May and two days before the 15th anniversary of the 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans, CNN reported.
The bill will head to Obama’s desk, setting up a showdown between lawmakers and the White House which argued that the legislation would harm relations with Saudi Arabia. House Speaker Paul Ryan dismissed the pushback about the bill setting a negative precedent.
“This bill passed overwhelmingly in the U.S. Senate so I think that those concerns have been taken under consideration and members are acting accordingly and that’s why this bill will pass,” Ryan said.
Though the White House had no comment Friday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said after the Senate passed the bill in May that “it’s difficult to imagine the President signing this legislation.”
“This legislation would change longstanding international law regarding sovereign immunity. And the President of the United States continues to harbor serious concerns that this legislation would make the United States vulnerable in other court systems around the world,” he said, according to CNN.
But Sen. Chuck Schumer, a sponsor of the Senate bill, disagreed.
“There are always diplomatic considerations that get in the way of justice,” the New York Democrat said, “but if a court proves the Saudis were complicit in 9/11, they should be held accountable. If they’ve done nothing wrong, they have nothing to worry about.”
“Today’s vote sends an unmistakable message that we should combat terrorism with every tool we have, and that the families of those lost in attacks like that on September 11th should have every means at their disposal to seek justice,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a co-sponsor of the Senate bill, said in a statement.
A key U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia has strongly objected to the bill and has denied any role in the terror attacks though 15 of the 19 hijackers that carried them out were of Saudi descent. Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir threatened that they would sell $750 billion in U.S. assets, including treasury securities, if the bill becomes law, CNN reported.
House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte believes acts of terrorism should not be subject to the sovereign immunity of other countries, allowing them to hide behind legal loopholes.
“We can no longer allow those who injure and kill Americans to hide behind legal loopholes, denying justice to the victims of terrorism,” the Virginia Republican said.
If the president does veto the bill, votes from two-thirds of the members in the House and Senate could override the it.
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