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Congress Votes to Override President Obama's 9/11 Veto

Courtesy of Sen. Blumenthal's office
Sen. Richard Blumenthal speaks to reporters in Hartford alongside Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Sen. Chris Murphy, and 9/11 family members Mary Fetchet and Brett Eagleson.

Congress voted to reject President Barack Obama's veto of a bill that would allow the families of September 11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia. 

Senator Richard Blumenthal said the intent of the bill isn't to prejudge.

"It gives both sides a fair day in court, and if the Saudi government had no involvement in 9/11 -- it has nothing to fear," Blumenthal said on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Wednesday. "But if it was culpable it should be held accountable. That is the basic principle of this measure."

The bill, called the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), originally passed both houses of Congress unanimously before getting vetoed by the President.

From a report by NPR's Ailsa Chang:

JASTA would allow a lawsuit against any country by any U.S. citizen who claims the country financed or otherwise aided and abetted a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Liability would attach only if the plaintiff could show the country acted with knowledge in providing this support.
Congress already has allowed Americans to sue countries that have been designated as "state sponsors of terrorism," but currently, that list includes only three countries -- Iran, Syria and Sudan. The White House says that designation is assigned only after very careful review by national security, intelligence and foreign policy officials, and that such designations should not be left to private litigants and judges.

The vote comes even as lawmakers and senior U.S. government officials have said the legislation could backfire on the U.S.

A group of senators said that during a post-election, lame-duck session of Congress, they'll discuss ways to improve the measure.

With congressional elections just over a month away, many lawmakers are reluctant to oppose a measure backed by 9/11 families who say they are still seeking justice nearly 15 years after the attacks killed nearly 3,000 people.

Heather Brandon and Tucker Ives contributed to this report, which includes information from The Associated Press.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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