President Obama will still veto a bill to help the families of 9/11 victims sue Saudi Arabia for damages, although it passed unanimously in both the House and Senate.
“That is still the plan,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Monday. “The president does plan to veto this legislation.”
The House passed the bill in a unanimous vote Thursday, following the Senate’s unanimous vote of approval earlier this year in a rare display of bipartisanship in both chambers. If Obama follows through on his plan to veto the bill, it’s likely he’ll face his first veto override of his presidency.
“If the Saudis did not participate in this terrorism, they have nothing to fear about going to court,” Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer, a sponsor of the bill, told The New York Times before it passed. “If they did, they should be held accountable.”
The Obama administration has lobbied vigorously against the bill, because of concerns about threats of economic retaliation from Saudi Arabia, and the possibility of other countries making changes to their own immunity laws in a way that would hurt American interests abroad.
Just before the Senate version passed, Schumer told TheNYT Democrats would override a veto, and called the Saudi threat “hollow,” because “it will hurt them a lot more than it hurts us.”
Saudi Arabia has threatened to dump hundreds of billions of dollars of U.S. assets if Congress passes the law, but like Schumer, experts have pointed out the unlikelihood of Saudi Arabia following through on the threat to dump U.S. assets, because its own currency would suffer from the resulting economic turmoil since it is tied to the dollar and because it would be very hard to pull off on such a large scale.
Obama’s opposition to the bill has infuriated lawmakers and the families of 9/11 victims. The bill would revise immunity laws currently sheltering Saudis from American lawsuits in U.S. courts, making it possible for the families to finally get justice, and its passage comes right around the 15th anniversary of the attacks.
“I do anticipate the president will veto the legislation when it is presented to him,” Earnest added Monday. “It hasn’t been presented to him yet.”
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