Bill to allow 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia passes Senate

The Senate unanimously approved a measure that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia.  The bill moves on to the House, where approval is uncertain.

But President Obama has promised to veto the bill, citing "sovereign immunity" as the primary objection.

The Hill:

The Senate approved the bill after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) lifted a hold on the legislation imposed because of concerns it would open up the U.S. to lawsuits from foreigners who accuse Washington of supporting terrorism.

Schumer and Cornyn said they are talking with House leadership and their staffs to try to get them to take up the legislation, but neither offered much insight into their conversations.

First, the bill would have to get through the House Judiciary Committee. The panel is planning to hold a hearing on the bill “in the near future,” a committee aide said.

Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) “definitely supports it,” said Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), a sponsor of the House bill.

“His staff supports it, and we’ll try to move as quickly as we can.”

King declined, however, to predict how many votes the legislation would receive.

“First thing’s first. First we got to get it on the calendar,” he said.

The legislation could hang in limbo for at least another month because lawmakers have limited legislative time and are awaiting a decision on declassifying more than two dozen pages of a 2002 congressional inquiry into 9/11.

If those pages are released, their contents could prompt public outrage and provoke retribution from Capitol Hill. They are believed to detail suspected links between the Saudi government and the al Qaeda terrorists who hijacked U.S. planes for the attacks.

“The plaintiffs are looking for the information, obviously,” Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), an advocate of releasing the pages, told The Hill on Tuesday. “I think it would be helpful.”

But action in the House could run into trouble with the Speaker’s office.

Ryan has declined to explicitly endorse or oppose the legislation. Asked about the Senate’s actions, his aides referred back to his comments last month in which he seemed skeptical.

“I think we need to look at it,” Ryan told reporters at the time. “I think we need to review it to make sure we are not making mistakes with our allies and we’re not catching people in this that shouldn’t be caught up in this.”

While caution should be taken to avoid some of the pitfalls outlined by the White House, this is a bill that is long overdue.  The Saudis have been giving a wink and a nod to terrorism on one hand and offering valuable assistance to the U.S. in our anti-terror efforts on the other.  The threat of monetary damages might end this sort of peek-a-boo support for terrorism by the Saudis and others, like Pakistan, who support the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Passage of the bill – and overriding Obama's veto – will probably anger the Saudis, as will release of the classified documents from the intelligence committee 9/11 report.  But even though it might destablize the regime, holding all of those responsible for 9/11 should be of paramount importance.

The Senate unanimously approved a measure that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia.  The bill moves on to the House, where approval is uncertain.

But President Obama has promised to veto the bill, citing "sovereign immunity" as the primary objection.

The Hill:

The Senate approved the bill after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) lifted a hold on the legislation imposed because of concerns it would open up the U.S. to lawsuits from foreigners who accuse Washington of supporting terrorism.

Schumer and Cornyn said they are talking with House leadership and their staffs to try to get them to take up the legislation, but neither offered much insight into their conversations.

First, the bill would have to get through the House Judiciary Committee. The panel is planning to hold a hearing on the bill “in the near future,” a committee aide said.

Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) “definitely supports it,” said Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), a sponsor of the House bill.

“His staff supports it, and we’ll try to move as quickly as we can.”

King declined, however, to predict how many votes the legislation would receive.

“First thing’s first. First we got to get it on the calendar,” he said.

The legislation could hang in limbo for at least another month because lawmakers have limited legislative time and are awaiting a decision on declassifying more than two dozen pages of a 2002 congressional inquiry into 9/11.

If those pages are released, their contents could prompt public outrage and provoke retribution from Capitol Hill. They are believed to detail suspected links between the Saudi government and the al Qaeda terrorists who hijacked U.S. planes for the attacks.

“The plaintiffs are looking for the information, obviously,” Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), an advocate of releasing the pages, told The Hill on Tuesday. “I think it would be helpful.”

But action in the House could run into trouble with the Speaker’s office.

Ryan has declined to explicitly endorse or oppose the legislation. Asked about the Senate’s actions, his aides referred back to his comments last month in which he seemed skeptical.

“I think we need to look at it,” Ryan told reporters at the time. “I think we need to review it to make sure we are not making mistakes with our allies and we’re not catching people in this that shouldn’t be caught up in this.”

While caution should be taken to avoid some of the pitfalls outlined by the White House, this is a bill that is long overdue.  The Saudis have been giving a wink and a nod to terrorism on one hand and offering valuable assistance to the U.S. in our anti-terror efforts on the other.  The threat of monetary damages might end this sort of peek-a-boo support for terrorism by the Saudis and others, like Pakistan, who support the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Passage of the bill – and overriding Obama's veto – will probably anger the Saudis, as will release of the classified documents from the intelligence committee 9/11 report.  But even though it might destablize the regime, holding all of those responsible for 9/11 should be of paramount importance.