Friday morning President Obama vetoed not-so-controversial legislation that would enable families of the victims of the September 11th attacks sue the government of Saudi Arabia, dividing the president even from members of his own party.
The act—fully titled the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act”—which was passed unanimously by both the House and Senate, would allow families of victims of 9/11 to file civil lawsuits against Saudi Arabia were the country found guilty of helping support the attacks. Saudi Arabia has previously denied involvement in the attacks, however 15 of the 19 September 11th attackers were in fact Saudi Arabian, though whether or not they acted on behalf of the country is unknown.
While Obama was quick to clarify that he holds “deep sympathy for the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 who have suffered grievously” and is committed to assisting the families in their pursuit of justice, the president was quick to veto the act, claiming it would “invite consequential decisions to be made based upon incomplete information.” The president is also reportedly worried the act would open up the possibility of foreign legal action against the United States.
Due to congressional support the possibility of overturn of the president’s decision is not only present but probable. For the decision to remain as is, President Obama would have to convince 34 members of the Senate and 144 members of the House of Representatives to side with him. If Congress does decide to overturn the President’s decision it would be the first veto override of Obama’s presidency.
Though Speaker of the House, Republican Paul Ryan has proclaimed he is confident that the votes are there to support an override, the issue has some speculating whether Senate Democrats who originally supported the measure will want to vote against the will of their president so close to the end of his term.
Outside of Congress, 9/11 survivors and their families champion the bill. Mindy Kleinberg, who lost her husband on 9/11 and earlier this week protested to get Obama to sign the bill, said she was “greatly disappointed […] To come to this point where he’s the one man standing between the way of justice and making the nation is horrifying.”
As is expected, both presidential candidates have chimed in on the debacle. Aids of Secretary Clinton have expressed the candidate’s support for the bill while Donald Trump called President Obama’s veto “shameful.”
Kleinberg noted that family members of 9/11 victims would be meeting with lawmakers sometime next week to urge them to continue backing the proposal.