- By David FrancisDavid Francis is a staff writer for Foreign Policy, where he oversees FP's breaking news blog, The Cable. An award-winning journalist, David has reported from all over Europe, Nigeria, Kenya, Mexico, and Afghanistan on terrorism, national security, the geopolitics of energy, global economics, and the European financial crisis. His work has been published in outlets including the Christian Science Monitor, the Financial Times Deutschland, Slate, and SportsIllustrated.com.
White House spokesperson Josh Earnest repeated Monday what President Barack Obama has said in the past: The president will veto legislation allowing the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. courts. He could be facing his first congressional override if he follows through on the threat.
That’s because there is broad support for the bill in both the House and Senate. It passed both unanimously by voice vote, meaning the bill’s backers could have enough votes to overturn the president’s seal of disapproval. Two-thirds of both the House and Senate would have to vote for the measure for it to become law over Obama’s veto.
On Monday, Earnest argued at the White House press briefing that the law “actually opens up the United States to the risk of being hauled into court in countries around the world.” He added, “I would anticipate that the president will continue to explain his opposition to this legislation … up until Congress decides whether to override his veto.”
Speaking last week, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said he found Earnest’s argument “unpersuasive. The United States does not engage in international terrorist activity. We need not fear retaliation from another country. This is not the 1790s, the United States is a major power and can hold our own.”
Meanwhile, the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, on which Saudi Arabia plays a leading role, condemned the legislation Monday. GCC Secretary General Abdullatif al-Zayani, of Bahrain, told Reuters the law “contravenes the foundations and principles of relations between states, notably sovereign immunity.”
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11 were Saudi nationals, but there is no evidence that any Saudi official played a role in the 2001 terror attacks. Many families of 9/11 victims pushed Congress to pass the bill. It made it through the Senate is May and the House last Friday.
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