By Nicole DeStefano
Nation & World Editor
With the 15th anniversary of 9/11 approaching, the House of Representatives voted for a bill on Friday, Sept. 9 permitting victims’ families to sue Saudi Arabia over the terrorist attack, according to CNN.
The Senate passed the bill by voice vote on Tuesday, May 17, but concerns arose that it will “complicate diplomatic relations with a key ally in the region,” according to CNN. Despite the White House indicating that President Barack Obama will veto the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, the Senate’s approval was, for many, a small triumph for the families and loved ones of the nearly 3,000 individuals that were killed that day.
“It’s gratifying to see that when something is overwhelmingly in the interests of the American people, bipartisan action can happen,” Jerry S. Goldman, attorney for several families of 9/11 victims, said, according NY Daily News.
“The unity Americans felt in the days after 9/11 lives on in a determination to hold whoever was complicit in attacks on U.S. soil accountable, as existing law provides and as JASTA clarifies,” Goldman added.
The legislation would allow family members to file lawsuits against the Saudi Arabian government for any role its officials played in the devastating terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
While Saudi Arabia has denied any role in 9/11, 15 out the 19 terrorists involved in the attacks were Saudi nationals, according to CNN. The same news source reported that the Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, warned lawmakers that if the bill became a law, the country would sell $750 billion in U.S. assets.
According to CNN, the White House had no comment on the House’s decision Friday, but after the Senate bill passed in May, White House spokesman Josh Earnest had something to say.
“It’s difficult to imagine the President signing this legislation,” Earnest said, according to CNN. “This legislation would change longstanding international law regarding sovereign immunity. And the President of the United States continues to harbor serious concerns that this legislation would make the United States vulnerable in other court systems around the world.”
The concern is that opening the door for lawsuits against Saudi Arabia would leave the U.S. vulnerable to legal action by foreign nations. However, supporters of the legislation disagreed.
While Obama is likely to veto the bill, a vote of two-thirds in both the House and the Senate can override his veto.