The US Senate voted 97-1 to override President Barack Obama’s veto of the bill that would allow Americans to potentially sue Saudi Arabia for 9/11. This is the first veto override during the Obama presidency.
Obama vetoed the bill last week, explaining that the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act” (JASTA) would erode the doctrine of sovereign immunity and expose the US to lawsuits around the world.
JASTA, which passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate, allows US judges to waive sovereign immunity claims when dealing with acts of terrorism committed on American soil – potentially allowing lawsuits against Saudi Arabia over the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Fifteen of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationals.
The issue appears to cross party lines, with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) pushing for a veto override while Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) is concerned it would “end up exporting [US] foreign policy to trial lawyers.”
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has argued that allowing JASTA to become law could lead to US being sued in foreign courts and subjected to an “intrusive discovery process.”
This could put Washington in the “difficult position of choosing between disclosing classified or otherwise sensitive information or suffering adverse rulings and potentially large damage awards for our refusal to do so,” Carter wrote to House Armed Services Committee chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) earlier this week, according to the Military Times.
The House is expected hold a veto override vote later on Wednesday.
If Obama’s veto is successfully overridden in the House, it would be 111th time in US history that this has happened, and the first in Obama’s presidential term.
The first-ever veto override took place in March 1845 and involved President John Tyler’s attempt to build military ships without the approval of Congress. Andrew Johnson (1865-1869) holds the record for most vetoes overridden at 15, while Harry Truman (1945-1953) and Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) are tied at second place with 12.