By: Lauren Moore
Created to achieve justice for the 9/11 victims and their families, the proposed 9/11 Victims Bill provides their loved ones the right to sue Saudi-Arabian countries for their role in the attacks. Despite its seemingly positive intentions, the impact this bill might have on America’s foreign policy could potentially backfire for the U.S. As of now, an individual citizen is not allowed to sue another country. Therefore, the passage of this bill grants a new, controversial right for American citizens.
For the past few years, the United States has executed drone attacks on both Pakistan and Afghanistan, killing many of their citizens. This year alone, air and drone attacks have caused over one thousand citizen deaths. White House Spokesman Josh Earnest posed the concern that if American citizens are suddenly allowed to sue Saudi-Arabian countries for the 9/11 attacks, other countries’ citizens may, in turn, sue America for their deadly drone and airstrikes against countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan . The prospective passage of this bill is especially concerning to those involved in foreign policy in regards to how other countries may retaliate.
The 9/11 Victims bill unanimously passed through both the House of Representatives and the Senate, but it is expected to be vetoed by President Obama since his administration is against this piece of legislation. Obama has until September 23rd to execute a veto, yet Congress may very well override Obama’s veto. If congress successfully overrides the veto, it will be the first override to ever occur in the Obama administration.
Although an override of Obama’s veto is possible, it is unlikely because of his opportunity to use a pocket veto, a legislative tool that is only applicable in the ten days before Congress dismisses. For any bill, the president must sign or veto within the ten days of receiving it; however, if Congress adjourns within that time and the president has yet to act, the bill will not pass, becoming “pocket vetoed.” Since Congress adjourns on September 30th, President Obama has the rare ability to veto this bill by simply not acting upon it. Whether President Obama chooses to veto, pocket veto, or pass the bill, this controversial decision will have great impacts, both here in the United States and abroad.
Surprisingly, the pocket veto did not work, and Congress overwhelmingly overrode Obama’s veto for the first time in eight years. The vote in the Senate was 97-1 and 348-77 in the House of Representatives. Dr. Lyon summarized his thoughts on the bill by saying, “who wouldn’t want to allow justice for these families? However, President Obama should have done more to make that case about the complications this bill causes.”
Some members of Congress are already regretful about passing the bill, which Josh Earnest is calling “buyer’s remorse.” In fact, a group of about 28 Senators claims that the bill may pose “unintended consequences on the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” Outraged by this claim, Josh Earnest reminded that Congress received many warnings, that were hardly debated, before voting. Some Senators intend to fix these issues during the lame-duck session, when Congress meets after the November election to discuss the coming year. As for now, one can only watch to see the outcome of this bill, for better or for worse.