By: Elizabeth Klein
For the first time during the Obama Administration, Congress voted to override the president’s veto on a new bill known as the 9/11 Victims’ Bill. The law would allow families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for any involvement the country might have had in the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil. Congress voted 97-1 in the Senate and 348-77 in the House in favor of the bill. Despite these numbers, the law has been met with extreme controversy. Since the veto override, protesters and supporters of the bill have been in constant debate.
Supporters of the bill claim that it is a good chance for victims’ families to find closure. Senator Charles Schumer (NY) says the important part is that “the families of the victims of 9/11 be allowed to pursue justice, even if that pursuit causes some diplomatic discomforts.” Many families of victims feel the same way. Sean Passananti, the son of a victim of the attack, says that “Obama is showing he’s on the side of the Saudis instead of the 9/11 families and the American people.” Mindy Kleinberg–who lost her husband on 9/11–thinks that the bill would “send a message to the world that if you come to our country and kill our citizens, we’re going to hold you accountable.”
Yet, enacting the bill has its consequences, too. Opposers worry that passing the bill means opening the door for court cases to be made against the United States. Journalist Mark Joseph states that under the traditional practices of international law, the bill is “a disaster.” Fox News contributor Gillian Turner turned to Twitter to explain that the bill will “hurt American interests in the long-run.” In a CNN Town Hall meeting, President Obama stated that he believes the bill is “a mistake.”
“The concern that I’ve had is —[it] has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia per se or my sympathy for 9/11 families, it has to do with me not wanting a situation in which we’re suddenly exposed to liabilities for all the work that we’re doing all around the world,” he told interviewer Jake Tapper. President Obama acknowledged that he understands why families of 9/11 victims agree with the law. “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,” he added. “If you’re perceived as voting against 9/11 families right before an election, not surprisingly, that’s a hard vote for people to take. But it would have been the right thing to do,” the president explained. “It’s an example of why sometimes you have to do what’s hard. And, frankly, I wish Congress here had done what’s hard.”