US Congress rejects Obama veto on 9/11 bill

The bipartisan September 11 lawsuit bill is sponsored by the Number 2 Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas. Photograph:( Getty )

Reuters United States Sep 28, 2016, 07.15 PM (IST)

The US congress quashed President Obama's veto of a bill allowing 9/11 victime to sue Saudi Arabia in a vote on Wednesday.

This is the first time in eight years that the senate has rejected the president's veto.

The house of representatives voted 348-77 to override the law by more than a two-thirds majority after the senate opposed the veto in a 97-1 vote.

Obama lobbied hard against the bill known as the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).

The bill would undermine the principle of sovereign immunity exposing US to lawsuits. The bill will now allows families of those killed in 9/11 to sue Saudi Arabia.

"I strongly believe that enacting JASTA into law would be detrimental to US national interests," Obama said in a letter to Republican and Democratic Senate leaders, AFP reported. "The United States relies on principles of immunity to prevent foreign litigants and foreign courts from second-guessing our counterterrorism operations and other actions that we take every day."

If the bill becomes law “what you really do is you end up exporting your foreign policy to trial lawyers,” senate foreign relations committee chairman Bob Corkersaid, adding that U.S. personnel might find themselves dragged into lawsuits abroad over American drone use in Pakistan and Afghanistan, or even its support for Israel, The Washington Post reported.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest called the Senate vote "the single most embarrassing thing" the legislative body has done in decades, AFP reported.

The bill's co-sponsor Charles E. Schumer said it "would allow the victims of 9/11 to pursue some small measure of justice" even if it caused diplomatic discomforts.

The Saudi government has denied any links to the 9/11 attack and has lobbied against the bill. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens.

(WION with inputs from AFP)

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