Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Debate over JASTA Continues between Congress and Obama Administration | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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United States, Obama, Saudi, Bill, JASTA, Congress

Washington – U.S. President Barack Obama has said he will veto the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), the White House said Monday.

JASTA is a bill that allows 9/11 victims and their families to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. federal court for its alleged role in indirectly financing the attacks.

Long debates are ongoing between U.S. administration officials and democratic legislators to reconsider the bill in an attempt to find a way to avoid collision between the Obama administration and Congress.

Analysts believe that Obama will face a huge legislative battle in the upcoming days against the Congress on the case of JASTA, which would remove sovereign immunity, preventing lawsuits against governments, for countries found to be involved in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

Observers stated that the expected number of congressmen with the JASTA could lead to overriding the presidential veto, while others considered that the technical procedures would hinder the passing of the bill.

The bill’s authors believe they have the votes to override Obama’s veto; the legislation passed unanimously by voice vote in both the House and Senate.

The bill would override current Saudi claims to sovereign immunity, allowing families of September 11 terrorist attacks victims to bring a long-standing federal court case against the Saudi government for allegedly sponsoring the attacks.

“The president feels strongly about this and I do anticipate that the president will veto the legislation when it’s presented to him,” White House spokesperson Josh Earnest stated.

The White House is concerned the bill could open up the United States to numerous lawsuits, Earnest noted.

“It’s not hard to imagine other countries using this law as an excuse to haul U.S. diplomats or U.S. service members or even U.S. companies into courts all around the world,” he said.

There is also a concern about how judges at different levels in different courtrooms could come up with a different designation for the same country when it comes to sponsoring terrorism, he added.

Analysts believe that Obama relies on the support of democrats especially that some of them had already voted for the bill for electoral purposes.

A congressman’s advisor told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the congressmen are keen on a vote on the bill sponsored by the democratic Jerrold Nadler.

Process of the Presidential veto and the congress vote on JASTA:

The congress is expected to send the bill to the White House as soon as Saturday. The White House then has 10 days to veto the measure, not counting Sundays. If Obama vetoes the bill, then it will be sent once more for the congress to vote. Overriding the veto requires a two-thirds majority in the House for it to become a law.

Obama is relying on the democratic support and hoping to change their position before resorting to the veto. If Obama used his veto and two-thirds majority voted against, it would be the first time in history that the Congress had cancelled a presidential veto.

However since 2016 is an election year not only for the White House but also for many members of Congress, it’s highly unlikely any such vote would take place before Election Day on November 8.