Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Congress Overides Obama Veto: Families of terrorist victims can sue Saudi Arabia.

Congress voted Wednesday to override President Obama for the first time in his eight-year tenure, as the House followed the Senate in rejecting a veto of legislation allowing families of terrorist victims to sue Saudi Arabia.
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The House easily cleared the two-thirds threshold to push back against the veto. The final tally was 348-77, with 18 Republicans and 59 Democrats voting no.
The Senate voted 97-1 in favor of the override earlier in the day, with only Minority LeaderHarry Reid (D-Nev.) voting to sustain the president’s veto.
“We can no longer allow those who injure and kill Americans to hide behind legal loopholes denying justice to the victims of terror,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).
The White House immediately slammed lawmakers following the Senate vote.
“I would venture to say that this is the single most embarrassing thing that the United States Senate has done possibly since 1983,” press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One, an apparent reference to a 95-0 vote to override President Ronald Reagan that year.
The override was widely expected in both chambers, with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle characterizing it as an act of justice for the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The so-called Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism (JASTA) would amend current law to allow victims of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil to sue countries that are not formally designated as sponsors of terrorism — like Saudi Arabia.
Written primarily at the behest of 9/11 victims’ families, the bill comes as a response to lingering suspicion that the Saudi government was somehow involved in the attacks. 
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks were Saudi citizens, and there have long been rumors about ties between al-Qaeda and the government in Riyadh.
Saudi officials have for years denied that their government had any role in plotting the attacks. The 9/11 Commission report said that neither the Saudi government “as an institution” nor its senior officials funded the attackers, and 28 recently declassified pages from a congressional report contained no smoking gun. 
The White House had lobbied fiercely against the legislation, making personal arguments to both Reid and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as recently as the beginning of this week.
The bill also faced forceful pushback from military and intelligence officials from multiple administrations, including current Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, CIA Director John Brennan and the chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Critics warn that JASTA will undermine longstanding principles of sovereign immunity that protect U.S. government and officials without improving the U.S.’s ability to respond to terrorist attacks.
“Other countries could attempt to use JASTA to justify the creation of similar exceptions to immunity targeted against U.S policies and activities they oppose,” Obama wrote in a Tuesday letter to McConnell and Reid. 
“The consequences of JASTA could be devastating to the Department of Defense and its service members — and there is no doubt that the consequences could be equally significant for our foreign affairs and intelligence communities.”
Saudi officials have also reportedly threatened to sell off hundreds of billions of dollars in American assets in order to protect them from being frozen by court rulings, although economists doubt they would follow through. More at Source

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