On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled Senate unanimously approved bi-partisan legislation that would allow for families of the victims of the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks to sue the government of Saudi Arabia.
The move stands in stark defiance to veto threats and opposition from President Barack Obama’s White House, which is concerned about America’s relationship with the Sunni-dominated Kingdom.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) co-sponsored the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act and are calling upon the House of Representatives to follow suit.
“This bill is very near and dear to my heart as a New Yorker because it would allow the victims of 9/11 to pursue some small measure of justice,” Schumer said, according to the Hill.
It now rests upon the House of Representatives to pass the bill before it makes its journey to the president’s desk, where it will seek final approval.
Despite bipartisan ownership of and support for the bill, the Obama administration has threatened a veto. Also on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest echoed the administration, warning of “unintended consequences” and saying, “It’s difficult to imagine the president signing this legislation.”
At a recent press conference, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) also voiced skepticism about the legislation, saying, “I think we need to review it to make sure we are not making mistakes with our allies and we’re not catching people in this that shouldn’t be caught up in this.”
Fox News notes that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who serves as the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, also warned that the legislation, if passed, would alienate the kingdom and undermine America’a relationship with their longstanding ally in the Middle East.
In spite of the reservations and veto threats from President Obama, Schumer said he believes the power of the Senate will be greater than the president’s. “I think we easily get the two-thirds override if the president should veto,” Schumer reportedly said.
Calls have been made by relatives of the 9/11 victims for the Obama administration to declassify and release U.S. intelligence reports that could include discussion of Saudi involvement in the attacks.
Last month, Breitbart News reported that Saudi Arabian and other Gulf press lashed out at President Obama prior to his visit to Riyadh over the potential passage of the bill, a accusing a “schizophrenic” Congress of being in cahoots with Iran in holding the kingdom responsible for involvement in the attacks.
Similar to sound bites coming out of the White House, they said the move will likely cause irreversible damage to U.S.-Saudi ties.
Iran’s role in the 9/11 attacks has been the subject of great debates over the past 15 years. The 9/11 Commission Report stated that some of the hijackers went through Iran but did not have their passports stamped there, suggesting the regime may have had knowledge about the attacks. Additionally, the report suggests that Hezbollah, which is a terrorist organization sponsored by Iran, had provided “advice and training” to al-Qaeda members.
Although none of the 19 hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attack were Iranian, this past March U.S. District Judge George Daniels in New York ordered Iran to pay over $10 billion in damages to families of victims who died that day. According to Russian television, that same judge had cleared Saudi Arabia earlier of culpability in the attack. Fifteen of the hijackers were Saudi Arabian citizens, two were from the United Arab Emirates, and one each were from Egypt and Lebanon.
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