As expected, President Obama vetoed a bill on Friday that would allow 9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia in U.S. courts. From Politico:
Obama’s rejection of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act was well-foreshadowed; White House officials have repeatedly said Obama has several objections to the measure, including concerns that U.S. officials would face retaliation in the courts by foreign governments…
“This would invite consequential decisions to be made based upon incomplete information and risk having different courts reaching different conclusions about the culpability of individual foreign governments and their role in terrorist activities directed against the United States,” Obama said.
Today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set a vote for a veto override for this Wednesday. The Hill reports:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) set the vote on overriding the veto, along with two hours of debate, for Wednesday.
New York Sen. Charles Schumer, expected to be the next Democratic leader, joined Republicans Friday in criticizing Obama’s move.
“This is a disappointing decision that will be swiftly and soundly overturned in Congress,” Schumer said in a statement. “I believe both parties will come together next week to make JASTA the law of the land.”
The House will also have to vote to override the veto. House Speaker Paul Ryan has already said he would vote for the override and last week House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi agreed saying, “The families will have the votes.” The bill originally passed with unanimous support on a voice vote, so it’s not clear why Obama would risk this bipartisan rejection in a fight he seems destined to lose. It will be the first time one of his vetoes has been overridden.
Much as I hesitate to agree with the President, especially when he seems to be alone on this, he may have a point about the possible consequences. There is a real chance this could wind up backfiring on the United States. Once U.S. citizens begin suing the Saudis in U.S. courts, other countries—countries we have targeted with drone attacks, for instance—will follow suit. In the long run this bill may be opening up a new avenue for hostile countries to get involved in making America pay, literally, for U.S. foreign policy.