The White House has censured the US
Congress for having “buyer’s remorse” over overriding President Barack Obama’s veto of legislation allowing relatives of the victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks to sue Saudi Arabia.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest made the remarks on Thursday during a press conference after two high-ranking Republican lawmakers suggested the bill needed changes.
On Wednesday, Senators voted 97-1 in favor of the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA),” which was vetoed by Obama last week. Only Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, voted to sustain the president’s veto.
Hours later, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted against the presidential decree, 348 to 77. Only 18 Republicans and 59 Democrats voted not to override the veto.
“Well, it’s hard to know where to start,” Earnest said. “I think what we’ve seen in the United States
Congress is a case of rapid-onset buyer’s remorse.”
On Thursday, less than 24 hours after Congress voted to override President Obama’s veto, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan both said JASTA could have dire consequences for American service members and diplomats abroad. They said it could put them at risk of legal action.
US Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R) laughs as Senator Chuck Schumer (C) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell drive nails into a piece of lumber at a c ceremony on September 21, 2016 outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)
Earnest said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker and others claimed some lawmakers did not know what was in the legislation before they approved it.
“What’s true in elementary school is true in the United States
Congress: Ignorance is not an excuse,” Earnest said.
He went on to call it “an abject embarrassment” that lawmakers are now considering possible changes to the measure shortly after its passage.
Earnest said Obama’s term would end in three months and it’s “awfully late for changes.”
On Wednesday, Obama said the measure sets a “dangerous precedent” in international law that could have repercussions for the United States.
“If we eliminate this notion of sovereign immunity, then our men and women in uniform around the world could potentially start seeing ourselves subject to reciprocal loss,” he said.
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.