The Senate acted decisively Wednesday to override President Barack Obama’s veto of Sept. 11 legislation, setting the stage for the contentious bill to become law despite flaws that Obama and top Pentagon officials warn could put U.S. troops and interests at risk.
Five weeks before elections, lawmakers refused to oppose a measure backed by 9/11 families who say they are still seeking justice 15 years after the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. The bill permits them to sue the government of Saudi Arabia for the kingdom’s alleged backing of the 19 hijackers who carried out the plot. Saudi Arabia is staunchly opposed to the measure.
Senators voted 97-1 to override Obama’s veto. The lone “no” vote was Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
A House vote on Obama’s veto was expected later in the day Wednesday. If the House also overrides, the bill becomes law. During his nearly two terms in office, Obama has never had a veto overridden by Congress.
Despite reversing Obama’s decision, several senators said defects in the bill could open a legal Pandora’s box, triggering lawsuits from people in other countries seeking redress for injuries or deaths caused by military actions in which the U.S. may have had a role.
In a letter Tuesday to Senate leaders, Obama said the bill would erode sovereign immunity principles that prevent foreign litigants “from second-guessing our counterterrorism operations and other actions that we take every day.”
But one of the bill’s leading proponents, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, dismissed Obama’s concerns as “unpersuasive.” Cornyn, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, and other supporters said the bill is (continue reading at WSMV)