Obama vetoes 9/11 lawsuit bill against Saudi Arabia

Lawmakers are vowing to decisively override President Barack Obama's veto of a bill to allow families of September 11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia.

The Obama administration and a bipartisan group of former senior foreign policy, intelligence and military officials have warned that the legislation could lead other countries to change their laws to strip US officials and armed forces personnel of legal protections.

The White House has always been at loggerheads with lawmakers regarding the bill, saying it would open the door to similar suits against the US.

The bill would carve out an exception to sovereign immunity - the legal doctrine that protects foreign governments from lawsuits - if a plaintiff claims to have suffered injury in the USA from state-sponsored terrorism.

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, who co-sponsored the bill, said he was "disappointed" and would press ahead and overrule President Obama's veto.

Earnest stressed that Obama had a strong record of looking out for the families of those who lost loved ones in the September 11 attacks and that he had ordered the operation to take Osama bin Laden off the battlefield. Both major presidential candidates criticized Obama's veto decision that put him at odds with Congress, which is expected to overrule his veto in the near future.

But Obama is "willing to take some heat", Earnest said, because the risks the bill poses to US national security are too high.

Mrs Clinton's Republican opponent Donald Trump criticised the outgoing president for the veto, and also promised to sign the Bill if he enters the White House.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Obama's former secretary of state, expressed her support for the legislation, demonstrating the hard political position the White House was faced with.

Schumer, a New York Democrat who was a lead supporter of the bill, called the veto "a disappointing decision that will be swiftly and soundly overturned in Congress". The absence of public opposition underscores the political appeal of the idea and the challenge Obama faces in drawing enough congressional support to sustain his veto. The administration has also heard complaints about the bill from the European Union, which warned in a letter to the State Department that if the measure becomes law, US diplomats and corporate executives could face retaliation in overseas courts.

There has been speculation that Obama is so steadfastly against this law because he is struggling to maintain a positive relationship with Saudi Arabia at the expense of his own people.

The legislation never explicitly mentions Saudi Arabia, which was home to most of the 9/11 hijackers, but that American ally is widely understood to be the main target.

With no recorded votes on the Bill, it is unclear exactly how many members will back the override.

The veto marks Obama's 12th during his presidency, and all of the previous vetoes have held.

Senator Chuck Schumer of NY, the Senate's number three Democrat and a traditional Obama ally, came out swinging against the president while predicting politicians would reverse it "swiftly and soundly".



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