The US Senate on Tuesday approved legislation that would allow victims of the 9/11 terror attacks to sue Saudi Arabia, defying vocal opposition from the White House.
“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,” New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer said Tuesday. “[This is] another example of the [John] Cornyn-Schumer collaboration, which works pretty well around here.”
The Republican-controlled upper chamber unanimously voted for the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which would allow any victim or surviving family members of a terrorist attack on the US soil to take legal action against the foreign nation-states behind the measure.
US President Barack Obama has already said he would veto the measure over security concerns, but Schumer (pictured below) shrugged off the threat, saying a veto would easily be overwritten.
“I think we easily get the two-thirds override if the president should veto,” he said. “Today the Senate has spoken loudly and unanimously that the families of victims of terrorist attacks should be able to hold the perpetrators, even if it’s a country, a nation, accountable.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest reacted to the approval, reiterating Obama’s position on the measure.
“Given the concerns we have expressed, it’s difficult to imagine the president signing this legislation,” Earnest said.“This legislation would change longstanding international law regarding sovereign immunity, and the president of the United States continues to harbor serious concerns.”
The bill has already gained support from the US House of Representatives, where it will head to next although Speaker Paul Ryan has voiced skepticism.
“I think we need to look at it,” Ryan told reporters last month. “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.”
The bipartisan measure does not recognize the White House’s concern that it may undermine the US national Security.
“Look, if the Saudis did not participate in this terrorism, they have nothing to fear about going to court,” Schumer said. “If they did, they should be held accountable.”
The Saudis’ role in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which left nearly 3,000 people dead, has recently been highlighted in the backdrop of partisan rows in the US political system.
Riyadh also fears possible release of 28 pages of a congressional report, kept secret so far, that implicates their government in the attacks.