Senate showdown looms over Obama 9/11 bill veto

The Senate will remain in session through next week to deal with an expected veto by President Obama of the bill passed last week that gives families of 9/11 victims the right to sue the government of Saudi Arabia for being complicit in the attacks.

The president has until Friday to veto the bill, and the White House has made it clear that this is the president's intention. 

The bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both the House and the Senate, so getting the two-thirds majority from each chamber should be relatively easy.  But some Democrats are listening to administration arguments that passage of the bill could lead to retaliatory suits against Americans.

The Hill:

If Congress were to leave Washington for the campaign trail this week, as many had expected, the administration might have had a better shot at convincing Democrats to uphold an Obama veto in a lame-duck session after the elections.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday vowed the Senate would stay in the Capitol to deal with the issue, as well as a separate push to deny an arms sale to Saudi Arabia.

“Both of those we’ll have to deal with before we depart,” McConnell told reporters.

The leader offered a similar message in private, telling rank-and-file Republicans during their lunch that they will reconvene next week if Obama waits until the last minute to veto the popular bill.

The expected vote on the veto override will give Senate negotiators a few more days to reach agreement on a stopgap funding measure to keep the government open past Election Day, likely until Dec. 9.

The Senate voted Tuesday night to advance debate on the measure, but negotiators are still hashing out details over the funding.

“I think we are close to finalizing an agreement that we can go to the floor on,” McConnell said Tuesday.

He acknowledged the talks have dragged on for longer than he expected and pledged to brief his members on any deal before bringing it to the floor.

The fight over Saudi Arabia has emerged as the more dramatic congressional issue to be dealt with before the elections.

Obama has taken his time to veto the bill, something Republicans hoping to return to the campaign trail have noticed. 

The fight is taking place against the backdrop of a pitched battle for the Senate, with Democrats needing to hold the White House and gain four seats to retake their majority.

“Veto the bill if that’s what you’ve decided to do,” Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas) said at a press conference. “We hope you wouldn’t, but if you’re going to veto it, veto it and send it back to us so we can have the vote to override that veto.”

The administration has refused to negotiate with Senate Republicans, so the GOP has little choice but to carry on with the override attempt.

As for the Democrats, they're not only getting pressure from the White House to uphold the veto, but also hearing from 9/11 families who have put on a full court press to lobby Democrats who voted for the bill.

Politico:

I think it would be incorrect for any member to think this is a very simple issue, that it may not have ramifications for the United States in other venues around the world,” Hoyer said. “Having said that, I will reiterate, I share and there is great sympathy among the Senate, the House, bipartisan, to assure that the American families who have suffered great grief and loss have an avenue to address their grievances.”

But their public trepidation is going up against relentless lobbying from family members of the Sept. 11 victims, who have proved to be a powerful force. When Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina began expressing their qualms with the legislation and suggesting that a veto override should be held off until the end of the year, the families fired back, saying the Republicans are asking “far more than the families and survivors should ever be asked to accept.”

That ferocious push continued into Tuesday, as Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) met privately with 9/11 families in his office and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) held a news conference outside the Capitol with victims of the terrorist attacks.

Another enemy working against the White House is simple: time.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday he plans to hold the override vote before senators leave Washington to campaign, dramatically cutting down the time the White House has to coax enough senators to sustain Obama’s expected rejection of the 9/11 legislation. McConnell said he assumed the veto will be overridden.

Republicans are complaining that Democrats are slow-walking the veto to keep incumbent GOP Senators in Washington rather than out on the campaign trail, where several close races will probably decide who controls the Senate next year. 

No vote is expected in either the House or the Senate until late next week.

The Senate will remain in session through next week to deal with an expected veto by President Obama of the bill passed last week that gives families of 9/11 victims the right to sue the government of Saudi Arabia for being complicit in the attacks.

The president has until Friday to veto the bill, and the White House has made it clear that this is the president's intention. 

The bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both the House and the Senate, so getting the two-thirds majority from each chamber should be relatively easy.  But some Democrats are listening to administration arguments that passage of the bill could lead to retaliatory suits against Americans.

The Hill:

If Congress were to leave Washington for the campaign trail this week, as many had expected, the administration might have had a better shot at convincing Democrats to uphold an Obama veto in a lame-duck session after the elections.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday vowed the Senate would stay in the Capitol to deal with the issue, as well as a separate push to deny an arms sale to Saudi Arabia.

“Both of those we’ll have to deal with before we depart,” McConnell told reporters.

The leader offered a similar message in private, telling rank-and-file Republicans during their lunch that they will reconvene next week if Obama waits until the last minute to veto the popular bill.

The expected vote on the veto override will give Senate negotiators a few more days to reach agreement on a stopgap funding measure to keep the government open past Election Day, likely until Dec. 9.

The Senate voted Tuesday night to advance debate on the measure, but negotiators are still hashing out details over the funding.

“I think we are close to finalizing an agreement that we can go to the floor on,” McConnell said Tuesday.

He acknowledged the talks have dragged on for longer than he expected and pledged to brief his members on any deal before bringing it to the floor.

The fight over Saudi Arabia has emerged as the more dramatic congressional issue to be dealt with before the elections.

Obama has taken his time to veto the bill, something Republicans hoping to return to the campaign trail have noticed. 

The fight is taking place against the backdrop of a pitched battle for the Senate, with Democrats needing to hold the White House and gain four seats to retake their majority.

“Veto the bill if that’s what you’ve decided to do,” Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas) said at a press conference. “We hope you wouldn’t, but if you’re going to veto it, veto it and send it back to us so we can have the vote to override that veto.”

The administration has refused to negotiate with Senate Republicans, so the GOP has little choice but to carry on with the override attempt.

As for the Democrats, they're not only getting pressure from the White House to uphold the veto, but also hearing from 9/11 families who have put on a full court press to lobby Democrats who voted for the bill.

Politico:

I think it would be incorrect for any member to think this is a very simple issue, that it may not have ramifications for the United States in other venues around the world,” Hoyer said. “Having said that, I will reiterate, I share and there is great sympathy among the Senate, the House, bipartisan, to assure that the American families who have suffered great grief and loss have an avenue to address their grievances.”

But their public trepidation is going up against relentless lobbying from family members of the Sept. 11 victims, who have proved to be a powerful force. When Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina began expressing their qualms with the legislation and suggesting that a veto override should be held off until the end of the year, the families fired back, saying the Republicans are asking “far more than the families and survivors should ever be asked to accept.”

That ferocious push continued into Tuesday, as Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) met privately with 9/11 families in his office and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) held a news conference outside the Capitol with victims of the terrorist attacks.

Another enemy working against the White House is simple: time.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday he plans to hold the override vote before senators leave Washington to campaign, dramatically cutting down the time the White House has to coax enough senators to sustain Obama’s expected rejection of the 9/11 legislation. McConnell said he assumed the veto will be overridden.

Republicans are complaining that Democrats are slow-walking the veto to keep incumbent GOP Senators in Washington rather than out on the campaign trail, where several close races will probably decide who controls the Senate next year. 

No vote is expected in either the House or the Senate until late next week.