Senate Passes Bill Helping|9/11 Victims Sue Saudis

     WASHINGTON (CN) — The Senate passed a bill that would help families of Sept. 11 attack victims revive their lawsuits against Saudi Arabia, if the legislation can pass the House and overcome a promised White House veto.
     The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, co-sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., passed on Tuesday by a voice vote, demonstrating strong support in a deeply divided Congress.
     The bill was first introduced a little more than a month after a New York federal judge dismissed one such lawsuit on Aug. 14.
     District Judge George Daniels found that families of the victims suing the head of two Saudi charities in New York could not pursue their case because the nonprofit chief, Abdul Rahman Al-Swailem, qualified for immunity.
     Since that time, Daniels pruned two more defendants from the litigation, including the kingdom itself and the Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia & Herzegovina.
     Sen. Schumer referred to these and other cases during his remarks today from the Senate floor.
     “The courts in New York have dismissed the 9/11 victims’ claims against certain foreign entities alleged to have helped fund the 9/11 attacks,” the senator said, according to a transcript from the hearing. “These courts are following what I believe is a nonsensical reading of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.”
     Calling the legislation a “long-overdue” and “responsible, balanced fix” to Saudi immunity, the Empire State Democrat called the bill “very near and dear to my heart as a New Yorker.”
     “The victims of 9/11 and other terrorist attacks have suffered such pain and heartache, but they should not be denied justice and so, I will fight hard in Congress until the House passes this bill and it is signed into law,” Schumer added in a statement.
     The bill still has a long road ahead before it can become a law.
     If the House votes in its favor, the White House has vowed to veto the legislation, which has strained relations with Saudi Arabia. Politico reported that Congress only has overridden presidential vetoes less than 5 percent of the time, but the vote today gives reason to believe those odds could be overcome.
     The bill passed without a single objection.
     Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia threatened late last month to sell of billions in U.S. assets in retaliation shortly before President Barack Obama’s visit to the kingdom.
     Asked about these hurdles, Sen. Cornyn expressed confidence in the legislature’s ability to override a veto in an interview, and he noted that President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran also upset Saudi Arabia.
     “I just don’t know any reason to make the families of the 9/11 terrorist attack pay for the president’s misguided Iran policy,” he said. “That’s the thing that’s alienated Saudi Arabia more than anything else.”
     Cornyn also handwaved the Saudi economic threats as bluster that would “end up harming themselves and their own financial position.”
     “So I’m not as worried about Saudi Arabia as I am about the victims of 9/11 and those families,” the Texas Republican said.
     Cornyn was likewise bullish about the bill’s reception in the House.
     “We’re communicating with the House leadership but I would expect the same sort of response that we’ve had over here,” he said. “It’s taken us a little while to work through the holes and some of the objections but we were successful in doing that. And my expectation would be we’d be able to do the same thing in the House.”
     Late last month, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told CNN that the bill would put the United States at “significant risk” of other countries adopting similar laws.
     “It’s difficult to imagine a scenario where the President would sign it,” he told the network.

%d bloggers like this: