The Senate passed legislation Tuesday that would allow families of Sept. 11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia despite a White House veto threat and fierce objections from the U.S. ally.
The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, approved by voice vote, had triggered a threat from Riyadh to pull billions of dollars from the U.S. economy if the bill is enacted.
The legislation, sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., gives victims’ families the right to sue in U.S. court for any role that elements of the Saudi government may have played in the 2001 attacks that killed thousands in New York, the Washington, D.C. area and Pennsylvania.
Relatives of Sept. 11 victims have urged the Obama administration to declassify and release U.S. intelligence that allegedly discusses possible Saudi involvement in the attacks.
Passage of the bill sends the message that the United States “will combat terrorism with every tool we have available, and that the victims of terrorist attacks in our country should have every means at their disposal to seek justice,” Cornyn said.
Schumer said that any foreign government that aids terrorists who strike the U.S. “will pay a price if it is proven they have done so.”
Senate Democrats had firmly supported the legislation, putting them at odds with the Obama administration. The White House has said the bill could expose Americans overseas to legal risks.
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