VETO: ‘Ab­so­lute shame’

Marysville Appeal-Democrat - - LOCAL / OBITUARIES -

chief spon­sor of the bill.

Speak­ing at a fo­rum in Wash­ing­ton, CIA Di­rec­tor John Brennan said he was con­cerned about how Saudi Ara­bia, a key U.S. ally in the Mid­dle East, would in­ter­pret the bill. He said the Saudis pro­vide sig­nif­i­cant amounts of in­for­ma­tion to the U.S. to help foil ex­trem­ist plots.

“It would be an ab­so­lute shame if this leg­is­la­tion, in any way, in­flu­enced the Saudi will­ing­ness to con­tinue to be among our best coun­tert­er­ror­ism part­ners,” Brennan said.

On CNN, Obama said that a few law­mak­ers who backed the bill weren’t aware of its po­ten­tial im­pact. He didn’t name them. “And, frankly, I wish Congress here had done what’s hard,” he said. “It was, you know, ba­si­cally a po­lit­i­cal vote.”

But Repub­li­cans and Democrats said the White House had been slow to re­spond to the bill and mis­cal­cu­lated law­mak­ers’ in­tent to act on the leg­is­la­tion along with the 15th an­niver­sary of the ter­ror at­tacks. When Obama and se­nior na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cials such as De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash Carter fi­nally weighed in, it was too late.

The Se­nate passed the bill by voice vote in May. The Obama White House then made the mis­take of think­ing the bill would stall in the Repub­li­can-con­trolled House. In Au­gust, 9/11 fam­i­lies pres­sured Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., while he was on a cam­paign swing in New York.

On Sept. 9, two days be­fore the 15th an­niver­sary of 9/11, the House passed the bill by voice vote with lit­tle de­bate.

De­spite re­vers­ing Obama’s de­ci­sion, a bi­par­ti­san group of 28 sen­a­tors led by Bob Corker, R-Tenn., sug­gested that de­fects in the bill could open a le­gal Pan­dora’s box, trig­ger­ing law­suits from peo­ple in other coun­tries seek­ing re­dress for in­juries or deaths caused by mil­i­tary ac­tions in which the U.S. may have had a role.

Corker, the chair­man of For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, chided the White House for be­ing out­raged over the out­come when the ad­min­is­tra­tion did so lit­tle to sus­tain the pres­i­dent’s veto.

“There was zero de­sire to sit down and talk about a way to get to a bet­ter out­come. Zero,” Corker told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “To my knowl­edge, I don’t know of a call from Obama to a sin­gle sen­a­tor over this.”

In a let­ter sent Tues­day to Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Obama said the bill would erode sov­er­eign im­mu­nity prin­ci­ples that pre­vent for­eign lit­i­gants “from sec­ond-guess­ing our coun­tert­er­ror­ism op­er­a­tions and other ac­tions that we take ev­ery day.”

But pro­po­nents of the bill dis­missed Obama’s con­cerns as un­per­sua­sive. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the Se­nate’s No. 2 Repub­li­can, and other sup­port­ers said the bill is nar­rowly tai­lored and ap­plies only to acts of ter­ror­ism that oc­cur on U.S. soil.

Fam­i­lies of the vic­tims and their at­tor­neys dis­missed con­cerns over the leg­is­la­tion as fear­mon­ger­ing. “We re­joice in this tri­umph and look for­ward to our day in court and a time when we may fi­nally get more an­swers re­gard­ing who was truly be­hind the at­tacks,” said Terry Strada, na­tional chair of the 9/11 Fam­i­lies & Sur­vivors United for Jus­tice Against Ter­ror­ism.

The leg­is­la­tion gives vic­tims’ fam­i­lies the right to sue in U.S. court for any role that el­e­ments of the Saudi gov­ern­ment may have played in the 2001 at­tacks. Courts would be per­mit­ted to waive a claim of for­eign sov­er­eign im­mu­nity when an act of ter­ror­ism oc­curred in­side U.S. bor­ders, ac­cord­ing to the terms of the bill.

Obama ve­toed the mea­sure last week, telling law­mak­ers the bill would make the U.S. vul­ner­a­ble to re­tal­ia­tory lit­i­ga­tion.

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