Congress Overrides Obama Veto For The First Time In His Presiden


Families of those killed in the terror attacks on 9/11 are now legally allowed to sue Saudi Arabia, after Congress voted Wednesday to override President Barack Obama's veto of the legislation, the first override of his presidency. If at least two-thirds of House members vote to override the veto, the bill would become law, giving 9/11 victim families a chance at compensation and the president a legislative defeat.

Obama, who vetoed the measure last week, said in a letter to Senate leaders on Tuesday that other countries could use JASTA to justify similar immunity exceptions to target USA policies and activities that they oppose.

The bill, called the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), originally passed both houses of Congress unanimously before getting vetoed by the President.

Obama's press secretary, Josh Ernest, told reporter: "I would venture to say that this the single-most embarrassing thing that the United States Senate has done possibly since 1983".

The Obama administration has maintained that the legislation would have unintended consequences for the US, opening the door for lawsuits aimed at USA service members, diplomats and other officials.

But Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), said Tuesday that sovereign immunity is "not absolute", even for countries as close to the U.S.as Saudi Arabia - a key economic and security ally in a part of the world where the USA has limited friendships. "We're more interested in the families and in justice".

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the 2016 White House Tribal Nations Conference at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium on September 26, 2016 in Washington, DC.

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Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, on behalf of the Donald Trump campaign, said Wednesday that the President's veto an "was an insult to the families of those we lost on 9/11, and I congratulate the Congress for righting that bad wrong". Ben Cardin (D-Md.), that committee's ranking member, said ahead of the vote, arguing that helping the families "outweighs the risk on how other countries might respond to and perhaps compromise other USA interests".

It may not be exactly the political score many Republicans had envisioned.

"The concern that I've had has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia per se or my sympathy for 9/11 families", Obama said.

"As far as I'm concerned, this bill's a done deal", he said.

In his letter to Reid, the president said other countries could attempt to use JASTA to justify similar immunity exceptions to target USA policies and activities they oppose. Never mind that there is no hard proof the Saudi government was complicit in those attacks. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Tim Kaine, D-Va. In most instances, Congress didn't even attempt an override.

Mr Obama argued in his veto that the bill would undermine US-Saudi relations and warned of tit-for-tat lawsuits against US service members in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Removing sovereign immunity in US courts from foreign governments that are not designated as state sponsors of terrorism, based exclusively on allegations that such foreign governments' actions overseas had a connection to terrorism-related injuries on USA soil, threatens to undermine these longstanding principles that protect the United States, our forces, and our personnel", the president said.