Congress overrode President Obama’s veto concerning a bill that would allow the families of victims of terrorism to sue foreign governments last Wednesday. The first veto override in President Obama’s eight-year administration will allow families affected by 9/11 to sue the Saudi Arabian government on claims of financial support of Al-Queda. Saudi government officials strongly object to these claims, according to The Guardian.
This bill allows courts to waive the assertion of foreign sovereign immunity when an act of terrorism occurs inside US borders. The bill was swiftly passed through Congress in May of this year while Obama’s veto occurred this past Friday.
However, Obama was overridden by an overwhelming majority, with elected officials from both parties voting against his veto. Senate overrode with a 97-1 vote. Later in the day, the House overrode with a 348-77 vote. A veto override requires a 2/3 congressional majority.
Obama’s response to this override is it was a “political vote,” with Congress taking a stance against terrorism. During election season, a vote against families of the victims of terrorism is “a hard vote to take, but it would have been the right thing to do,” Obama said to CNN reporter Jake Tapper. General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Defense Secretary Ash Carter shared Obama’s sentiment that this was bad legislation, according to CNN.
Currently, the repercussions of such a vote are still unknown, but many elected officials who voted for this bill understand that there might be “unintended consequences” of breaking the assertion of foreign sovereignty. John Brennen, the director of the CIA said, “The principle of sovereign immunity protects US officials (working overseas) every day, and is rooted in reciprocity. If we fail to uphold this standard for other countries, we place our own nation’s officials in danger.”
The last time an administration got through an eight-year term without a overridden veto was the Kennedy-Johnson administration in the 1960s.
“I understand why it happened,” said Obama in a town hall with CNN later that night. “Obviously all of us still carry the scars and trauma of 9/11. Nobody more than this 9/11 generation that has fought on our behalf in the aftermath of 9/11.”