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The House on Friday voted to allow families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for any role in the attacks. (Photo: Glyn Lowe/cc/flickr)

Despite Obama's Veto Threat, US House Votes to Allow 9/11 Victims to Sue Saudi Arabia

With the bill's strong bipartisan backing, Obama could face his first veto override

Andrea Germanos

The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday overwhelmingly voted to allow families of 9/11 victims to sue nations, including Saudi Arabia, for any role their government may have played in the terrorist attacks.

As the New York Times explains,

The bill addresses a 1976 law that gives foreign nations broad immunity from American lawsuits by amending it to allow for nations to be sued in federal courts if they are found to have played any role in terrorist attacks that killed Americans on home soil. It also allows Americans to direct financial damage claims against those who funded the attacks.

The bill, which passed the Senate in May, now heads to President Obama, who has signaled he will veto the legislation.

In April, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, "It could put the United States and our taxpayers and our service members and our diplomats at significant risk if other countries were to adopt a similar law," adding, "The whole notion of sovereign immunity is at stake."

Obama, for his part, said in April, "If we open up the possibility that individuals and the United States can routinely start suing other governments, then we are also opening up the United States to being continually sued by individuals in other countries." That, according to some observers, reflected the fear that the legislation could make U.S. officials the subject of lawsuits over drone strikes.

As Reuters reports, "If Obama carries out that threat and the required two-thirds of both the Republican-majority House and Senate still support the bill, it would be the first time since Obama's presidency began in 2009 that Congress had overridden a veto."

ThinkProgress writes that the House vote sets off "a diplomatic nightmare for President Barack Obama," as "[t]he legislation is sure to antagonize a key U.S. ally in the Middle East which already has tense relations with the administration."

Still, as Reuters reported this week, "Obama's administration has offered Saudi Arabia more than $115 billion in weapons, other military equipment and training, the most of any U.S. administration in the 71-year U.S.-Saudi alliance."


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