US congressional leaders from both political parties have vowed to swiftly override President Barack Obama’s veto of legislation that allows victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia.
In his veto message, Obama said Friday that the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act,” or JASTA, which was passed in Congress on September 9, would be “detrimental” to America’s national security interests and its key alliances.
The legislation “does not enhance the safety of Americans from terrorist attacks, and undermines core US interests,” Obama said, adding that the victims’ families will not be able to gain justice through the bill either.
Some lawmakers called immediately for Congress to override the veto, which requires a two-thirds vote.
“It’s disappointing the president chose to veto legislation unanimously passed by Congress and overwhelmingly supported by the American people,” said Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas.
“Even more disappointing is the president’s refusal to listen to the families of the victims taken from us on September 11, who should have the chance to hold those behind the deadliest terrorist attack in American history accountable,” Cornyn said.
Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York and a sponsor of the bill, also criticized Obama’s veto, calling it “a disappointing decision that will be swiftly and soundly overturned in Congress.”
“If the Saudis did nothing wrong, they should not fear this legislation. If they were culpable in 9/11, they should be held accountable,” he said.
President Barack Obama participates in a moment of silence during a ceremony to mark the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks at the Pentagon Memorial on September 11, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
US presidential nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton said they would have signed the bill. Trump, the Republican nominee, called the veto “shameful.”
On Wednesday, the European Union (EU) called on Obama to veto the bill, warning that it would “put a burden on bilateral relations between states.”
Saudi Arabia has strongly opposed the bill, threatening to sell off $750 billion in American assets if it becomes law.
Of the 19 hijackers that allegedly carried out the attacks, 15 had Saudi Arabian nationality and available evidence suggests that some of them were linked to high-ranking Saudi officials.
Official 9/11 investigations have long been described by politicians and experts as a series of whitewashes aimed at concealing the roles that the Saudi regime and American intelligence agencies played in coordination with the Israeli regime during the period leading up to the terrorist attacks.