By Arab News
The White House said on Tuesday that it had “serious concerns” about a bill the US Senate passed earlier in the day that would allow survivors and relatives of those killed in the Sept. 11 attacks to sue to seek damages from the Saudi government.
“Given the concerns that we have expressed, it’s difficult to imagine the president signing this legislation,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
The Kingdom has denied responsibility for the 2001 attacks, strongly objecting to the bill.
The “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act,” or JASTA, passed the Senate by unanimous voice vote. It must next be taken up by the US House of Representatives, where no vote has yet been scheduled.
If it became law, JASTA would remove the sovereign immunity, preventing lawsuits against governments, for countries found to be involved in terrorist attacks on US soil. It would allow survivors of the attacks, and relatives of those killed in the attacks, to seek damages from other countries.
Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York, a co-sponsor, said the bill is overdue and that, because it only applies to attacks on US soil, does not risk lawsuits against the United States.
Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, also a sponsor of the bill, said JASTA does not target the Saudis, although he alluded to a still-classified section of a report on the Sept. 11 attacks.
“We have yet to see the 28 pages that have not been yet released about the 9/11 report, and that may well be instructive,” Cornyn said at the news conference.
Other lawmakers who have seen the 28 pages have said releasing them would quiet such rumors.
The Obama administration has said it opposes JASTA and that President Barack Obama would veto it. Asked if Senate Democrats would back a veto, Schumer said he would vote against Obama.