The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to override President Obama’s veto of a bill that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia.
The 97-1 vote marks the first time the Senate has mustered enough support to overrule Obama’s veto pen.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was the sole vote to sustain Obama’s veto. Not a single Democrat to the Senate floor before the vote to argue in favor of Obama’s position.
The House is expected to vote to override Obama’s veto later on Wednesday.
The White House lashed out at the Senate vote, calling it “embarrassing.”
“I would venture to say that this is the single most embarrassing thing that the United States Senate has done, possibly, since 1983,” Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One.
The White House had little chance in preventing the override after Obama used his veto pen on Friday.
The legislation, sponsored by Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), would create an exception in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act allowing the victims of terrorism to sue foreign sponsors of attacks on U.S. soil.
It was crafted primarily at the urging of the families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks who want to sue Saudi Arabian officials if they are found to have links to the hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
It passed the Senate and House unanimously in May and September, respectively, but without roll-call votes.
The overwhelming support, the backing of the September 11 families and the election season all contributed to the president’s loss.
Obama warned in a veto message to the Senate last week that the bill would improperly give legal plaintiffs and the courts authority over complex and sensitive questions of state-sponsored terrorism.
He also cautioned that it would undermine protections for U.S. military, intelligence and foreign service personnel serving overseas, as well as possibly subject U.S. government assets to seizure.
Obama sent a letter to Senate leaders reiterating his concerns.
“The consequences of JASTA could be devastating to the Department of Defense and its service members — and there is no doubt that the consequences could be equally significant for our foreign affairs and intelligence communities,” he wrote in the letter, which was later circulated by a public affairs company working for the embassy of Saudi Arabia.
Cornyn argued that Obama has mischaracterized the bill.
“He cites concerns that the bill would ‘create complications,’ he says, with some of our close partners, but the truth is JASTA only targets foreign governments who sponsor terrorist attacks on American soil, plain and simple,” he said.
The Saudi Embassy and a high-priced team of lobbyists it hired waged an intense campaign to persuade lawmakers to sustain the override, but it came too late.
Obama and Reid weren’t the only ones to side with the Saudi Muslims over American victims and their families. Read U.S. Corporations Side With Saudi Arabia Against The American People Over 9/11 Victims Bill
General Electric, Dow Chemical, Boeing and Chevron are among the corporate titans that have weighed in against the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA…
the Saudis will seek a new bill to scale back the law in the lame-duck session or in the next session, after lawmakers are relieved from the heat of the campaign, people familiar with the plans said.
“It’s Washington at its finest,” one of the people said.
The Saudis are now spending more than $250,000 a month fighting the bill, retaining powerhouses Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Glover Park Group, Sphere Consulting and Squire Patton Boggs. Besides working with companies invested in Saudi Arabia, the lobbyists are directly contacting lawmakers, placing opinion articles and seeking support from think tank scholars.
GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bob Corker of Tennessee are trying to hammer out a compromise that would soften the bill, bringing it in line with previously proposed versions rather than keeping the harsher language that just passed.
A proposed amendment obtained by POLITICO — an effort that one person said was led primarily by Graham — suggests restoring an exemption for discretionary government actions, which the document says would prevent American interference in foreign countries’ internal policies and vice versa. A Graham spokesman declined to comment on the language.
Graham, who had voiced concerns about the legislation, said in an interview last week that discussions to address those issues were “not at the level I would appreciate.”
“We’ll see,” Graham said then. “Time will tell.”
GE declined to comment beyond Immelt’s letter. Dow, Boeing, Chevron and the Saudi embassy didn’t answer requests for comment.
And to top it off, The Brother of Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Chair is a Major Lobbyist for Saudi Arabia. So if the Clinton Cartel steals the election, count on a Saudi victory.
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