Kuwait- JASTA would damage United States relations, harm sovereign immunity - Obama vetoes

by Garry Watts September 28, 2016, 2:22
Kuwait- JASTA would damage United States relations, harm sovereign immunity - Obama vetoes

President Barack Obama has vetoed a bill that would have allowed the families of 9/11 victims to sue the Government of Saudi Arabia, pitting him against the US Congress.

The administration also claims that "American officials could now be sued in foreign courts over USA military or diplomatic actions overseas.[posing] a threat to national security", according to WaPo.

Justifying his decision, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Obama is much more anxious about the long-term impact of this legislation on the U.S. national security as compared to his daily interactions with members of the Congress.

The bill would carve out an exception to sovereign immunity - the legal doctrine that protects foreign governments from lawsuits - if a plaintiff claims to have suffered injury in the USA from state-sponsored terrorism.

"I believe both parties will come together next week to make JASTA the law of the land", Chuck Schumer of NY, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate and a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement, using an acronym for the measure.

Earnest stressed that Obama had a strong record of looking out for the families of those who lost loved ones in the September 11 attacks and that he had ordered the operation to take Osama bin Laden off the battlefield. But unless those who oppose the bill can persuade lawmakers to drop their support by next week, it will lead to the first congressional override of a veto during Obama's presidency - a familiar experience for presidents in the waning months of their terms.

"As we've made this case, members of Congress in both parties have indicated that they are open to the concerns that we've expressed - in many cases, they share them", Earnest said at a press conference Tuesday, as reported by NBC.

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The senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said earlier this week that "our assumption is that the veto will be overridden".

A group named 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism released a statement Friday saying it is "outraged and dismayed" over the president's veto, arguing that his reasoning is "unconvincing and unsupportable".

Fifteen of the 19 men who carried out the 9/11 attacks were Saudi nationals.

Obama also stated the passage of the bill would "create complications" in diplomatic relations with other countries and that the act, as it is now written, "undermines core USA interests", according to the Times.

The legislation unanimously passed on September 9 by both houses of Congress would allow the families to sue the Saudi Arabian government in a United States federal court. The statement didn't cite Saudi Arabia by name. His spokesman, David Popp, said Friday the Senate will consider the veto override "as soon as practicable in this work period".

Senator Chuck Schumer of NY, a top Democrat and traditional Obama ally, on Friday blasted the president for vetoing the bill and predicted fellow lawmakers would quickly override it in a rare show of bi-partisan unity. "If elected president, I would sign such legislation should it reach my desk". Several Arab nations, mainly from the Gulf, had voiced their disapproval of the Congress bill passed two weeks ago. Hillary Clinton, who represented NY in the U.S. Senate on 9/11, "would sign this legislation if it came to her desk", spokesman Jesse Lehrich told CNN.

"The President is not blind to the politics of this situation ..."


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