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story.lead_photo.caption This frame grab from video provided by C-SPAN2, shows the floor of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016, as the Senate acted decisively to override President Barack Obama's veto of Sept. 11 legislation, setting the stage for the contentious bill to become law despite flaws that Obama and top Pentagon officials warn could put U.S. troops and interests at risk.

WASHINGTON — Congress voted Wednesday to allow families of Sept. 11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for its alleged backing of the attackers, handing Barack Obama the first veto override of his presidency.

Both the House and Senate voted decisively to reverse Obama's decision to scuttle the legislation. Democrats in both chambers abandoned the president in large numbers despite warnings from Obama and top national security officials that flaws in the bill could put U.S. interests, troops, and intelligence personnel at risk.

The Senate vote was 97-1. The House vote a few hours later was 348-77.

Lawmakers said their priority was the 9/11 victims and their families, not Saudi Arabia.

"The White House and the executive branch [are] far more interested in diplomatic considerations," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a sponsor of the bill. "We're more interested in the families and in justice."

Speaking at a forum in Washington, CIA Director John Brennan said he was concerned about how Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, would interpret the bill. He said the Saudis provide significant amounts of information to the U.S. to help foil extremist plots.

"It would an absolute shame if this legislation, in any way, influenced the Saudi willingness to continue to be among our best counterterrorism partners," Brennan said.

Brennan, who said he visited lawmakers Wednesday to argue against an override of Obama's veto, noted that there is a tremendous amount of Saudi investment in the United States. "Do they want to leave them here so they could potentially be attached by some type of court ruling that is going to award the litigants?" he asked.

After senators acted, White House spokesman Josh Earnest called the vote the "single most embarrassing thing" the Senate has done in decades and "an abdication" of its responsibility. He accused members of the Senate Judiciary Committee of not understanding the legislation and its impact on the military.

The legislation gives victims' families the right to sue in U.S. court for any role that elements of the Saudi government may have played in the 2001 attacks. Fifteen of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudis. Courts would be permitted to waive a claim of foreign sovereign immunity when an act of terrorism occurred inside U.S. borders, according to the terms of the bill.

Read Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

Reader Vote Results

Should the families of 9/11 victims be allowed to sue the government of Saudi Arabia?


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Archived Comments

  • drs01
    September 28, 2016 at 12:23 p.m.

    Obama ain't a Muslim but he sure doesn't act like a president of the people. His actions invite criticism and many questions.

  • Foghorn
    September 28, 2016 at 12:44 p.m.

    I've never found myself in agreement with Cornyn of TX, so this is a first. We will never know what Saudi Arabia's role in 9-11 was - and what the US is hiding - until someone sues SA and discovery results in the release of the information. The vehement opposition by both SA and the US is clear evidence both are hiding critical details. I'd love to see the doors get blown open but I fear it will be years. Which way did Cotton and Bozoman vote on this one?

  • TimberTopper
    September 28, 2016 at 2:10 p.m.

    You two previous commenters need to read the entire bill. You might not be so happy with it. The house has 435 members, 2 seats are not filled at present, so it will take 286 there to override the President. Currently 246 in the house are Republicans, and 187 are Democrats. What this is opening up will be that in the World Court the United States will be available for individuals in Iraq, and who knows where else, can file lawsuits against the USA because their families got killed by US soldiers, or bombs during the war. Think again, Gentlemen. This is opening up a can of worms, never ending.

  • Foghorn
    September 28, 2016 at 3:21 p.m.

    I hear you, Timber, and it is a risk. My personal philosophy, however, is that we've bent over far too long for the Saudi oil. Fifteen of the nineteen 9-11 hijackers were Saudis. SA played a role and we need to know what it was. I believe the US already knows and their opposition is that when the truth comes out, it will be known that they buried it. I don't want that to be fifty years from now when the info is declassified for those who can no longer benefit from it.

  • applegg
    September 28, 2016 at 5:14 p.m.

    This is one case where I agree with Obama. (Almost never happens.) This override is an election year travesty, full of unintended consequences. What is going to happen when we start getting sued for our own actions?

  • mrcharles
    September 28, 2016 at 5:37 p.m.

    What a slap at W. His hand in hand walk with Saudi Royalty was a misty eye event in history.

    Dont forget everyone, W attacked Iraq not SA, so surely he would not have made a mistake as to who was really to blame. And Rumsfield and dick the Dick Cheney supported the move. As sea bass says, games set match to the facts. And do i have to remind you how often he isnt wrong?

    Dang it Obama, you have made a mistake. I will never vote for you again as POTUS, though I have no problem as the right believes that you will not go away and instead remain as leader of our country by force as commander in Chief.

    And drs01 there is so much belief out there that Obama is a muslim, even supplying the muslim brotherhood with weapons. got to be something to it instead of just a bunch of delusional right wingers.

    We will never allow us to be sued. We are the new chosen people and we have a different set of rules we live by , others are just our helpers and like a minimum wage worker we can just ignore the wishes of other nations. Besides they are not exceptional.

  • information19
    September 28, 2016 at 6:38 p.m.

    outstanding, now the path to reparations for slavery has been opened.

  • PopMom
    September 28, 2016 at 6:48 p.m.

    I agree with Timber and the President. While I think the Saudis are not the good allies that they pretend to be, we do not need to open ourselves up for every lawsuit from everybody we have hurt across the world. We already are too much in debt. This is just a relief bill for lawyers.

  • 3WorldState1
    September 28, 2016 at 7:42 p.m.

    While I can stand the Saudi's. Think of the thousands (about 100k) of innocent Iraq's we have killed. That's a lot of law suits.

  • DontDrinkDatKoolAid
    September 28, 2016 at 8:07 p.m.

    Obama a Muslim? The better question would be, where did congress find the back bone.