Congress needs to get it right this time on 9/11 vic­tim bill

If the bi­par­ti­san “buyer’s re­morse” Congress feels for pass­ing a pop­u­lar bill for vic­tims of Sept. 11 over the pres­i­dent’s veto came from a lack of in­for­ma­tion, then three mem­bers of Colorado’s con­gre­ga­tion who op­posed it should be ap­plauded for at least

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION -

Vot­ing against the Jus­tice Against Spon­sors of Ter­ror­ism Act, or JASTA, was a hard vote in an elec­tion year — but it was the right one.

Yes, it’s easy to imag­ine the neg­a­tive cam­paign ads that could be de­vel­oped. No one wants to be ac­cused of not sup­port­ing the families who lost their loved ones in ter­ror­ist at­tacks on U.S. soil.

Only 78 mem­bers of Congress who op­posed JASTA. We wish oth­ers had been as thought­ful.

JASTA, once you get past its nod to 9/11 vic­tims, sub­jects Amer­i­can diplo­mats, mil­i­tary mem­bers, in­tel­li­gence agents and officials to the dan­ger of law­suits. The new law flouts the long­time pro­tec­tions granted by the prin­ci­ple of sovereign im­mu­nity of na­tions, and also risks a drain of eco­nomic in­vest­ment from coun­tries like Saudi Ara­bia an­gry or ner­vous about it.

JASTA is broad. It al­lows law­suits against for­eign na­tions in fed­eral court for in­volve­ment in acts of ter­ror­ism on U.S. soil. How­ever, it was specif­i­cally aimed at al­low­ing families of vic­tims of 9/11 who be­lieve that Saudi Ara­bia played a role in the at­tacks to file suit.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama ve­toed the bill and it’s the first time Congress has been able to muster enough votes for an over­ride dur­ing his ten­ure. In his veto mes­sage, Obama said the mea­sure “un­der­mines core U.S. in­ter­ests.”

Al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter the bill be­came law, Repub­li­can lead­ers in the House and Se­nate ex­pressed con­cern that the bill might have un­in­tended con­se­quences and called for a fix when Congress re­turns in Novem­ber. They chided Obama and his ad­min­is­tra­tion for fail­ing to ar­tic­u­late con­cerns, de­spite the veto let­ter.

Whether or not a lame­duck Congress wait­ing for its term to end can make any­thing hap­pen as the na­tion awaits new lead­er­ship in the White House re­mains to be seen. There will likely be more pressing is­sues than walk­ing back this re­cent bill.

Buck said he’s op­ti­mistic a fix will be forth­com­ing, say­ing several of his col­leagues who voted for it did so while ex­press­ing hope that it be nar­rowed in com­ing months.

But if Congress fails to act in this win­dow when it must be eas­ier for them to make this kind of un­pop­u­lar vote, then does that mean a JASTA “fix” will have to wait two more years and risk the kind of dam­age that might oc­cur in the courts for the next lame-duck Congress not wor­ried about re-elec­tion?

We hope Congress will do its re­search this time and not have re­grets af­ter the fact.

JASTA, once you get past its nod to 9/11 vic­tims, sub­jects Amer­i­can diplo­mats, mil­i­tary mem­bers, in­tel­li­gence agents and officials to the dan­ger of law­suits.

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