The US Senate has unanimously voted to override President Barack Obama’s veto of a bill that allows victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks to seek reparations from Saudi Arabia.
On Wednesday, the lawmakers voted 97-1 in favor of the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA),” which was vetoed by Obama last week, on the grounds that it would be “detrimental” to America’s national security interests and its key alliances.
“Today is an important one for the widows and children of those murdered on 9/11. As always, I stand with them,” Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, who spearheaded the bill, said before the voting began.
The US House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on the veto later on Wednesday. If the House also votes to override the presidential decree, the bill would become law regardless of Obama’s stance.
Support for JASTA runs high among US lawmakers, who voted to pass the bill with absolute majority on September 9.
The legislation effectively ends foreign countries’ immunity from legal action in American courts.
US President Barack Obama wears a traditional blanket and hat given to him during the 2016 White House Tribal Nations Conference, Washington, DC, September 26, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
In his veto message, Obama said that the bill had elicited “serious concerns” among some of America’s allies.
Last Wednesday, the European Union (EU) called on the president 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.
“If the Saudis did nothing wrong, they should not fear this legislation. If they were culpable in 9/11, they should be held accountable,” Schumer said shortly after Obama’s veto.
US presidential nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton said they would have signed the bill into law. Trump, the Republican nominee, has denounced the veto as “shameful.”