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The Senate Overrides Obama’s JASTA Veto

The Senate overrode [1] Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terror Act (JASTA) earlier today by a vote of 97-1. Daniel DePetris explains [2] why the bill probably won’t have the effect its supporters desire:

In the end, however, all of the lobbying from the 9/11 families, and the millions of dollars spent by the Saudis in return, obscure an important fact about JASTA: the legislation is far more symbolic than anything else. Any teeth the bill had were taken out when senators amended the legislation to make it more palatable to the Obama administration.

In one of the biggest loopholes in the bill, the attorney general would possess the power to ask a judge to pause any judicial proceeding against a foreign state for 180 days if he or she certified that Washington was engaged in “good faith discussions with the foreign state defendant” on the charges. The government, in effect, could ask the judge to stop the proceedings in order to arrive at some kind of settlement. And if the judge granted the attorney general’s initial request—something that Steve Vladeck, a professor of law at the University of Texas, argues is very likely given past precedent—the U.S. government could receive additional 180-day extensions as long as the discussions continued.

These loopholes give the Saudi government a way to stymie any lawsuits against them as long as there is an administration willing to cover for them. Since that’s the case, overriding Obama’s veto has more to do with striking a popular pose than it has to do with giving the families of 9/11 victims their day in court. The contrast with last week’s debate over the latest arms sale to the Saudis could hardly be greater. When there was a resolution before the Senate that might actually send a meaningful message of disapproval to Riyadh, the vast majority of senators was against it. Present the same group with a defanged bill that probably won’t do anything, and they’re all for it. The Senate had its chance to hold the Saudis accountable for their ongoing destructive behavior in Yemen, and opted to side with the Saudis. Voting for JASTA allows many of the same members to cast a symbolic anti-Saudi vote while still backing the unhealthy U.S.-Saudi relationship and the administration’s disastrous support for the war on Yemen.

Update: The House has voted [3] 348-77 to override Obama’s veto.

6 Comments (Open | Close)

6 Comments To "The Senate Overrides Obama’s JASTA Veto"

#1 Comment By Myron Hudson On September 28, 2016 @ 4:12 pm

This Congress typically avoids doing anything, but at least when given the opportunity to do something meaningless they Go Big. Well, I guess that’s about as good as it’s going to get.

#2 Comment By EliteCommInc. On September 28, 2016 @ 5:08 pm

Since the Saudis made an initial offer after 9/11 as a symbol that they were not involved and feeling some guilt over the events of that day, I m not sure a law allowing a suit is worth the effort. I suspect that anyone seeking compensation could ply on those feeling of guilt and work out some kind of package without a lawsuit.

It made sense to tun down the offer until the matter was (thoroughly)investigated. My problem here is that there isn’t much in the way of evidence that the Saudis were involved the attack.

#3 Comment By Profiles in Courage On September 28, 2016 @ 11:06 pm

I see that Hillary’s VP pick, Tim Kaine, doughty defender of our steadfast Saudi ally and scourge of starving Yemeni civilians, managed to miss this vote …

What a man!

#4 Comment By AG On September 29, 2016 @ 12:43 am

Well said, Mr. Larison, thank you.
I’m reminded of the derision that met Obama’s decision to pull out of Iraq when they insisted on the option to drag any of our soldiers into court- this is a very slippery slope.

#5 Comment By Slugger On September 29, 2016 @ 10:55 am

What is the impact of this bill on the 9/11 compensation act that was established back then? The purpose of the act was to compensate the families of the victims and cut off a long litigation process. Almost all families signed up, and the average payout was $1.8 million. Do the families now, fifteen years later, get to ligate for more?

#6 Comment By beejeez On September 30, 2016 @ 4:55 pm

Yes, of course Saudi leadership was involved in 9/11. After all, what does Saudi Arabia ever get from the United States? Except military protection from rivals, steadfast support of its ruling family, weaponry, billions in oil deals and photo-ops with every president? Other than that? Why wouldn’t they topple two giant skyscrapers full of innocent people, including Saudis?