House Passes Bill Allowing Victims' Families to Sue Saudi Arabia Over 9/11

The Senate passed the bill in May by voice vote despite vehement objections from Saudi Arabia, a key US ally in the Middle East.

Under current law, victims of terrorism can only sue countries officially designated by the State Department as sponsors of terrorism, such as Iran and Syria.

Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer, a co-sponsor of the bill, told reporters in May that he is confident that if the bill is vetoed the Senate would be able to override it because they do not believe the White House arguments stand up.

During House floor arguments, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) said the families of the victims have been waiting "15 years for justice" and should be placed before "diplomatic niceties".

"That's for a jury of Americans to decide", he said. Saudi Arabia is not just a major supplier of oil to the U.S., it is also one of its most important regional allies.

There was no immediate comment from Saudi Arabia, which was preparing for the annual hajj pilgrimage beginning Saturday.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi previously acknowledged that after the Senate easily passed the bill the administration reached out to try to make some changes but said it was "a little late".

A co-sponsor of the 9/11 bill, Senator Chuck Schumer of NY, called on the White House to sign it into law. In more explicit language, these families are now able to sue the Saudi Arabian government for possible involvement in the attacks.

Israel added, "I urge the president not to veto this bill".

The kingdom said it was a baseless accusation from a "deranged criminal".

Terry Strada, national head of 9/11 Families United For Justice Against Terrorism, dismissed fears that the USA could be the target of lawsuits.

The vote comes just three days before the 15th anniversary of the attacks, in which 2,996 people were killed.

9/11 terror attacks in NY.

Advocates of the bill, however, say that the bill would only apply to state actors who sponsor terrorism, would set no such negative precedent for the United States itself to be sued, and would be contingent on proof of criminal wrongdoing on the part of an outside actor, in this case Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir has denied such threats, but he warned that investor confidence would be shaken if such a measure was enacted. He said Riyadh had warned that investor confidence in the USA would shrink if the bill became law. When the pages were finally released in 2016, they stated that "While in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with, and received support or assistance from, individuals who may be connected to the Saudi government". The allegations were never substantiated by later USA investigations into the terrorist attacks.

Families of the September 11 victims have used the courts to try to hold members of the Saudi royal family, Saudi banks and charities liable because of what the plaintiffs charged was Saudi financial support for terrorism.

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