Congress overrides Obama’s veto of Sept. 11 bill

World Trade Center attack on  SEPT 11, 2001
World Trade Center attack on SEPT 11, 2001

Congress on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to override President Obama’s veto of legislation that would allow 9/11 victims’ families to sue the Saudi Arabian government over its alleged support for the terrorists who carried out the attacks.

It is the first override of Obama’s presidency.

The votes in the House and Senate amounted to a sweeping, bipartisan rejection of pleas from the White House to back the president, with administration officials arguing the legislation poses a national security threat by exposing U.S. officials to similar lawsuits abroad.

“Overriding a presidential veto is something we don’t take lightly, but it was important in this case that the families of the victims of 9/11 be allowed to pursue justice, even if that pursuit causes some diplomatic discomforts,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who co-authored the bill with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), said in a statement.

Some members of Congress in recent days expressed misgivings about the bill and signaled a willingness consider changes, but that angst did little to alter the vote tallies in either chamber.

Traveling aboard Air Force One Wednesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest called the vote “the single most embarrassing thing the United States Senate has done possibly since 1983,” when Congress overwhelmingly voted to override President Reagan’s veto of an Oregon land transfer bill.

“Ultimately these senators are going to have to answer their own conscience and their constituents as they account for their actions today,” Earnest said, noting that at least one GOP senator said some of his colleagues had failed to read the bill before voting on it initially. “To have members of the United States Senate only recently informed of the negative impact of this bill on our service members and our diplomats is in itself embarrassing.”

The Senate vote was 97 to 1 and the House tally was 348 to 77.

The bill would allow courts to waive claims to foreign sovereign immunity in situations involving acts of terrorism on U.S. soil.

Obama’s Democratic allies on Capitol Hill provided scant support for the president’s position with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) casting the lone vote to sustain the veto after receiving a letter from the president arguing the consequences of an override could be “devastating.”

In the letter, which Obama sent Tuesday to both Reid and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the president said that he was “fully committed to assisting the families of the victims of terrorist attacks of Sept. 11″ but the legislation would put military and other U.S. officials overseas at risk. The bill’s enactment, he warned, “would neither protect Americans from terrorist attacks nor improve the effectiveness of of our response to such attacks.”

Reid voted against the override despite telling reporters earlier this month that “I support that legislation” and Schumer’s efforts.

“He’s always had the president’s back,” said Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson.

McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said the president called the majority leader after the override vote was scheduled, but neither the conservation nor the letter did anything to change his mind.

The sharp rebuke of the president’s veto is a sign that Saudi Arabia’s fortunes are waning on Capitol Hill. The Saudi government has denied it had any ties to the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks and has lobbied fiercely against the bill. But victims’ families have pushed for the legislation so they can press their case in courts, and lawmakers who support the measure argue Saudi Arabia should not be concerned if it did nothing wrong.

Last week,  the Senate voted on a resolution to restrict arms sales to Saudi Arabia until it stops targeting civilians in Yemen.

“This is not a time when U.S.-Saudi relations have much popular support on either side,” said F. Gregory Gause, head of the international affairs department at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service. Just as the Saudis think the administration has tilted too closely to Iran, he said, many U.S. politicians blame Saudi Arabia for the globe spread of Sunni extremism. “I think that’s really simplistic.”

Both chambers passed the 9/11 legislation without dissent earlier this year. But now, several lawmakers are echoing the White House argument that the legislation could set a dangerous precedent, inviting other nations to respond by suing American diplomats, military personnel and other officials in foreign courts.

Critics of the bill are now focusing on how to scale back the measure once it becomes law. Approximately 20 senators have signed a letter expressing their intention to return to the issue during the lame duck session if the new law generates negative consequences.

“We see the writing on the wall: the override is going to occur,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has been leading efforts to negotiate a narrower alternative, before the vote.

Corker is one of several members who argue the bill is so broad that it could expose the United States to retaliation in foreign courts.

He complained that if the bill becomes law “what you really do is you end up exporting your foreign policy to trial lawyers,” adding that U.S. personnel might find themselves dragged into lawsuits abroad over American drone use in Pakistan and Afghanistan, or even its support for Israel.

Yet he and other senators who expressed similar concerns elected, in the end, to vote for the override.

Sen. Angus King (I-Me.) said he voted for the override because “concrete benefit” for the 9/11 victims’ families outweighed “speculative detriment” to American officials and foreign relations.

In a letter Monday to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter warned that allowing the bill to become law risked “damaging our close and effective cooperation with other countries” and “could ultimately have a chilling effect on our own counter-terrorism efforts.”

Thornberry and Smith both circulated letters among members in the last few days, urging them to vote against overriding the veto.

CIA Director John O. Brennan also warned of the 9/11 bill’s “grave implications for the national security of the United States” in a statement Wednesday.

Critics guessed their colleagues might be more open to scaling back the measure after observing any international “blowback” once it becomes law. Corker said he is working with Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) — who also supported the override Wednesday — in the hopes that “during the lame duck, maybe there’s a way to be successful in tightening this up.”

One alternative lawmakers have discussed is limiting the measure to the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, as a way of satisfying the demands of the 9/11 victims’ families without opening the United States to continuing diplomatic and legal problems.

Supporters have not warmed to any of the proposals critics are floating and Cornyn dismissed the idea Congress will revisit the legislation later this year.

“As far as I’m concerned, this bill is a done deal,” Cornyn said. “Obviously any senator or group of senators can offer any additional legislation they want, and we’ll take it up in due course.”

Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in an interview that it could take time to grasp the bill’s full implications, and there may be “some time to tweak the law before some of the most damaging consequences become clear.”

“But the biggest issue is that it opens up government agencies to court-ordered discovery,” Alterman said, adding that the federal government could face lawsuits from those who have been victims of drone strikes and other American military activities. “It’s not limited to Saudi Arabia, and it’s likely to have a much larger impact on the U.S. government than the Saudi government, because the U.S. government takes rules very seriously.”

While White House staffers have reached out to certain members of Congress, Obama did not launch an all-out lobbying push to pull members away from this bill.

“I know of no counting or anything they’ve asked me to do on that,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters Tuesday. Pelosi intends to vote to override Obama’s veto.





68 responses to “Congress overrides Obama’s veto of Sept. 11 bill”

  1. Most of the Americans are dumb cattle who have and are being played by the Anglo-American-Zionist elite.

    Nothing but the Land of the enslaved and Home of the cowards.

    1. I would think the those Anglo-American-Zionist elite see something of better value than the 7th Century mentality of the Middle Easterners. There is hope with those who are innovative in many areas than those who depend on one natural resource.

      1. The only thing the Anglo-American-Zionist elite sees in the Middle East is resources – that’s their “better value”. The “7th century mentality” is to their advantage and they have been pushing it, financing it and supporting it since the late 1800s for that “better value”.

        1. Here we go with the financing again. With all that oil the Middle East doesn’t require any financing, it’s already there. Not all ME countries had the Brits help them. Now they can buy everything that’s required to drill and export their product.

          1. OMG, you are still trying to sell that gibberish.

          2. I am not trying to sell anything you monolithic idiot. It’s to support what I am talking about: that the British and then American elite have been orchestrating the chaos in the Middle East since the late 1800s.

          3. Gee, can’t the Arabs orchestrate anything?

          4. 5thDrawer Avatar

            Guess you did. (See Y K’s Halotypes .. ;-))

          5. What point?

          6. Hahaha!

            p.s. you mean haplotypes (?)

          7. 5thDrawer Avatar

            Maybe ‘haplesstypes’ … 😉

          8. Perhaps you would like to discuss the point that Omega is making.

          9. Good one! 🙂

          10. You’re missing the point, on purpose, again.

          11. What point????

          12. Read the article. Over and out.

          13. Hind Abyad Avatar

            I guess he said Whhhatt poiiiint?

          14. Hind Abyad Avatar

            You know he’s not here to read or discuss..thank God i don’t see him.. I’m allergic.

          15. True, he’s not.

          16. I’m so intimidated. Got any Pallywood?

          17. I meant “true he’s not” in regards to “You know he’s not here to read or discuss..”

          18. Hind Abyad Avatar

            mais ..mais je te l’avais dito…….;-)

          19. C’est vrai.

          20. Discuss what. You article is generalized gibberish, perhaps you, Hind or 5th would like to discuss some portion of it?

          21. Discuss what.

            Playing dumb again.

            You article is generalized gibberish

            No, it’s not. Read it first or don’t but make up lies.

          22. I did read it. It’s become your standard bail out. Now, if you wish to discuss, what is your point?

          23. Right, you read it.

            I’d gladly discuss longer and in depth but you have a proven record of negating everything, regardless of facts, evidence, proofs and/or play dumb, divert and turn it to a circus when you want out.

          24. And you have a proven record of letting others do the talking. Now, if you wish to discuss, provide the meaning of the bailout article. Perhaps Hind and 5th can assist you.

          25. My comments show otherwise.

            I made my point in a previous comment: The only thing the Anglo-American-Zionist elite sees in the Middle East is resources – that’s their “better value”. The “7th century mentality” is to their advantage and they have been pushing it, financing it and supporting it since the late 1800s for that “better value”.

          26. And I made my point of ME funding is based on their one resource. What does this bailout article add?

          27. And you did it again: pinpoint at one word – in this case: financing – to try to discredit the entire point: that the West (first Britain and the USA) helped spread Pan-Wahhabism. The article supports my point.

            Your point is valid as well …

            Using its vast oil wealth, it has quietly spread its ultra-conservative brand of Islam throughout the Muslim world, secretly undermined secular regimes in its region and prudently kept to the shadows, while others did the fighting and dying. It was Saudi money that fueled the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, underwrote Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran, and bankrolled Islamic movements and terrorist groups from the Caucuses to Hindu Kush.

          28. You have repeatedly discussed financing and now your annoyed with with some one who is focusing on the financing. You also seem to forget that KSA is not the only country in the ME with oil.

          29. The only annoyance is your approach: pinpoint at one word to discredit the whole point. The west’s meddling in the ME and its support of Pan-Wahhabism are facts. KSA is not the only country in the ME with oil but it’s the only with that special affinity with the UK – I’ve edited my previous comment accordingly.

          30. Again, you have focused on the one word, ergo the topic will focus. Money is in many of your quoted articles and the response will be focused on it. The one aspect of KSA you forget is that have been more endowed with oil, smarter with it’s use (albeit for their own self serving purposes) and more politically savvy than any of the others Muslim countries in the ME.

          31. You’re the one who wrote “Here we go with the financing again.” and I am the one focusing on it.

            You need to educate yourself on the story of Britain and the Middle East (the creation of monarchies, the various tribes, the Sauds, Hashemites, etc). KSA was neither smarter nor more anything than anyone around. The bedouins had no clue what they had under their feet – it was the white British man who told them and exploited it. I am sure you heard of “no free lunch”.

          32. Gee whiz, you mean that kingdoms, monarchies, etc were built on some form of money. Wow, that is extraordinary, breaking news, stop the presses….LOL.

          33. Where did you read me write that?

            What you just wrote is exactly what I meant earlier: I’d gladly discuss longer and in depth but you have a proven record of negating everything, regardless of facts, evidence, proofs and/or play dumb, divert and turn it to a circus when you want out.

          34. “p.s. what you just wrote is what I meant earlier”

            Glad to hear it.

          35. And again: cherry picking words and make up your own conclusions. The dishonorable side of you shines again.

          36. 5thDrawer Avatar

            (guess no drills are made in Israel … hmmm …. jealousy)

          37. And that’s supposed to mean what?

          38. 5thDrawer Avatar

            Well, maybe you’re not exporting … sorry.

          39. Repeat above.

          40. 5thDrawer Avatar

            With all that oil the Middle East, including Israel, has it doesn’t require any financing, it’s already there. Not all other ME countries had the Brits help them. Now they can buy everything that’s required to drill and export their product.

          41. Well, maybe you’re not exporting … sorry.

        2. What happened to the Latino-Americans, did Trump deported them?

          1. How are Latino-Americansa and Trump related here and why are you asking me?

          2. The text wasn’t supposed to be to you. I’m not asking you anything.

          3. It was sarcasm.

          4. No, it was not since it was addressed to me by mistake.


      2. What happened to the Latino-Americans, did Trump deported them?

  2. Great move by the Congress. Slapping some fat lawsuits on some fat Saudi ass always feels good!

    1. 5thDrawer Avatar

      ‘First Override’ … obviously you are hoping for more.

      1. Hind Abyad Avatar

        What’s funny is that they support same al Qaeda in Syria..sad country of dual citizenship government..

    2. I think that was a good move but if the Saudis react by raising the price of oil, we, the people, the working people, will pay the price for the outcome of the lawsuits at the pumps.

      1. The days when the OPEC countries could just “raise the price of oil” to get what they want are thankfully over. I’m pretty sure the Saudis, who are excellent merchants, for all their faults, are keenly aware of that.

          1. Well, quite a few people have tried, and still keep trying. I wouldn’t set my hopes too high in this regard, however, pal. I’m sure you know the reason. 🙂

  3. 5thDrawer Avatar

    All gun attacks by weapons smuggled into Canada from USA will need to be redressed … surely.

  4. Finally the American Congress demonstrate that the president isn’t all mighty.
    The 9/11 victims relative may get justice.

    1. This is indeed ‘good news’ but the POTUS is an irrelevant puppet.

    2. 5thDrawer Avatar

      You forget the stories of 9/11-victim ‘first responders’ who were not getting health-care because of the dangers they put themselves into, from the grateful Americans … Too bad they have to try to sue someone else besides, just for compensation …

      1. How can you come with the absurd allegation that I forgot the stories of 9/11-victim ‘first responders’.
        Furthermore that I forgot the rescue crew’s legal claim for getting health-care compensation payment?

        1. 5thDrawer Avatar

          Just adding a note, Yeah … they shouldn’t feel the need to ‘sue’ at all. Their country would do it for them after collecting all the bills, if it thought it could with vaild arguments, froma ‘friendly’ country … and perhaps other countries who also received ‘aid’ at times they were hurting. And perhaps then without a slew of pricey lawyers getting into the act and inventing new arguments.

        2. Hey where did you find my picture?

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