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Obama vetoes 9/11 bill veto, likely setting up first congressional override of his presidency

In this photo taken Sept. 22, 2016, President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Obama has vetoed a bill that would have allowed the families of 9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia. The move sets Obama up for a possible first veto override by Congress. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)
In this photo taken Sept. 22, 2016, President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Obama has vetoed a bill that would have allowed the families of 9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia. The move sets Obama up for a possible first veto override by Congress. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Friday vetoed legislation that would allow families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia over its alleged ties to the terrorists who carried out the attacks.

Congressional leaders plan to hold override votes in the coming days and supporters of the legislation say they are confident they can succeed in overturning the president’s action. It would be the first time during Obama’s presidency that Congress has overridden a veto.

The legislation would allow U.S. courts to waive claims to foreign sovereign immunity in cases involving terrorism on U.S. soil. The administration contends that this would break a longstanding practice that sovereign nations are protected from these types of legal threats. The result, according to the White House, is that American officials could now be sued in foreign courts over U.S. military or diplomatic actions abroad, which administration officials said poses a threat to national security.

“Enacting (this legislation) into law, however, would neither protect Americans from terrorist attacks nor improve the effectiveness of our response to such attacks,” Obama wrote in his veto message to Congress.

But a group of families of 9/11 victims who have been advocating for the bill said in a statement Friday that they were “outraged and dismayed at the president’s veto,” rejecting “the unconvincing and unsupportable reasons that he offers as explanation.”

The bill passed the House and Senate without any dissents, but since that time several lawmakers have expressed misgivings with the measure.

Potential override votes likely will take place next week.


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