The US House of Representatives has passed a bill allowing Americans to sue Saudi Arabia over 9/11, days before the attack’s 15th anniversary. The measure passed without objection or opposition, but the White House is threatening a veto.
House Resolution 3815, also known as the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act” or JASTA, creates an exception to sovereign immunity created by a 1976 law, thus allowing US citizens to sue foreign countries for terrorism that kills Americans on US soil. The law has been invoked to shield Saudi Arabia from lawsuits over the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Fifteen out of 19 men who hijacked commercial airliners and used them as missiles to target the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were subjects of the Saudi kingdom.
The Senate version of JASTA, proposed by John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Charles Schumer (D-New York), was approved in May by 100 votes to zero. The House approved it on Friday by unanimous consent, giving the Republican-dominated legislature the ability to override a veto from President Barack Obama.
Champions of the bill were pushing for a vote on it before the 15th anniversary of 9/11, coming up on Sunday. Representative Peter King (R-New York) said he received the green light from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), contingent on the backing of Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia).
“Ryan said so long as Goodlatte approves it, he would approve it. And I spoke to Goodlatte, and [Goodlatte] said he approves it and supports it,” King told Politico.
Saudi Arabia has tried to block the bill, using the services of its many lobbyists in Washington. Among them is the Podesta Group, co-founded by current Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta and run by his brother Tony.