WASHINGTON D.C. — Congressional leaders from both parties expressed buyer’s remorse soon after the House and Senate overwhelmingly voted to overturn President Barack Obama’s veto of a contentious new law that allows the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. courts for any role it may have played in the 2001 attacks.
Experts have warned that Saudi Arabia and its allies, particularly the Sunni Arab coalition known as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), has the ability to “reduce valuable security and intelligence cooperation with longstanding ally Washington,” reports Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The law “will have negative effects on international cooperation in the fight against terrorism,” also warned Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, foreign minister of Saudi ally United Arab Emirates (UAE), before the bill became a statue.
Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, foreign minister of Saudi ally Bahrain, added, the law “is an arrow launched by the US Congress at its own country.”
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE are GCC members.
The warnings have fueled concerns expressed by the Obama administration that the controversial law would place U.S. troops and interests at risk.
Congress’s override of Obama’s veto Wednesday was an act of bipartisanship, which has become vanishingly rare in today’s Congress, best known for polarization and gridlock. It marked the only time Congress has overturned a veto during Obama’s tenure.
Saudi Arabia and its allies have threatened to retaliate against the new law by cutting investment in the U.S. economy and reducing counter terrorism cooperation.
On Thursday, a day after enacting the bill into law over Obama’s objections, top congressional leaders from both parties expressed reservations about the statue, reports CNN.
“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) both said they were open to making changes to the law, which Congress approved unanimously,” adds The Hill.
“I do think it’s worth further discussions, but it was certainly not something that was going to be fixed this week,” McConnell told reporters on Thursday.
Echoing McConnell, House Speaker Ryan acknowledged Congress may need to “fix” the law, noting that he was not sure when that would occur.
“We want to make sure the 9/11 victims and their families have their day in court,” Ryan told reporters. “At the same time, I would like to think that there may be some work to be done to protect our service members overseas from any kind of legal ensnarements that occur, any kind of retribution.”
“I do think that perhaps it could have been written in a little bit of a different way that addressed some of the concerns. The families did think that they made changes but not to the satisfaction of the President obviously,” added House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), noting she was never pressed by Obama to help prevent his veto from being overturned.
Moreover, 28 senators sent a letter to Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) expressing concerns about the law in an effort to convince the two senators who spearheaded the bill to make changes to in the future.
“We would hope to work with you in a constructive manner to appropriately mitigate those unintended consequences,” the senators wrote.
The White House blasted Congress for expressing what it referred to as “a pretty classic case of rapid-onset buyer’s remorse.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has conceded that the new law may have unintended consequences that Congress needs to discuss fixing but added that the White House took too long to warn about the “potential consequences” of a “popular bill.”
On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest indicated that McConnell was shifting the blame onto the White House, saying lawmakers should have been well aware of what they were voting for and the negative repercussions that would stem from the bill.
“What’s true in elementary school is true in the United States Congress — ignorance is not an excuse, particularly when it comes to our national security, and the safety and security of our diplomats and our service members,” he declared.
Experts have warned that Saudi Arabia has the options of cutting counterterrorism cooperation with the U.S.
“I am afraid that this bill will have dire strategic implications” for the United States, Salman al-Ansari, the president of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), told AFP.
“This partnership has helped provide US authorities with accurate intelligence information” that helped stopped attacks, he also said, adding, “Saudi has been stabbed in the back by this unthoughtful and unrealistic bill.”