KBZK: Senate overrides Obama veto for the first time in his presidency

WASHINGTON, DC –The Senate voted Wednesday afternoon to override President Obama’s veto of a bill that would allow families of 9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia.

Senators Jon Tester, Steve Daines and Congressman Ryan Zinke all voted in favor of overriding Obama’s veto of “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.”

Lawmakers overrode the veto in a 97-1 vote. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, was the only lawmaker to oppose the override. The House is expected to vote to override the veto within the next day. 

This could mark the first time Congress could successfully override a veto from Mr. Obama. He has vetoed 12 pieces of legislation and Congress has unsuccessfully tried to override five of them.

The votes come after Mr. Obama vetoed the legislation on Friday. The president has argued that the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) could present consequences in which it could, for example, allow people in other countries to sue the U.S.

In a last-minute attempt to explain the administration’s position, President Obama sent a letter to Reid that said the measure would harm the U.S. and wouldn’t protect Americans against terrorist attacks or improve the effectiveness of the government’s response to attacks.

“Doing so would instead threaten to erode sovereign immunity principles that protect the United States, including our U.S. Armed Force and other officials, overseas,” the president wrote. “This is why I vetoed the bill and why I believe you should vote to sustain that veto.”

The president warned that the bill “could be devastating” to the U.S. military and its service members and would lead to service members, diplomats and intelligence officials finding themselves subject to lawsuits in foreign courts.

“Such lawsuits could subject the United States and its officials to intrusive and time-consuming discovery, including demands from foreign litigants and courts for sensitive U.S. Government information or intelligence,” the president wrote. “Such lawsuits could also lead to sizeable money damages and efforts to attach U.S. Government property to satisfy those judgments — efforts to which we would be particularly vulnerable given our substantial worldwide presence.”

In May, the Senate passed the measure by voice vote, and it had broad bipartisan support. The measure was sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Chuck Schumer, D-New York, who rarely share the same view on legislation. The House unanimously approved the bill earlier this month.