The family members of victims to the worst terrorist attack on the United States in history are livid at Republican senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain for their attempts to change a 9/11 bill allowing them to sue Saudi Arabia.
Congress passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) earlier this year. The legislation enjoyed so much bipartisan support it was able to override a presidential veto – the only bill to ever do so under President Obama. JASTA allows the family members and survivors of 9/11 to sue Saudi Arabia for their part in the terrorist attacks, narrowing the scope of sovereign immunity. From Paul Ryan to Nancy Pelosi, the legislation boasted near universal support and was years in the making.
President Obama vetoed the bill – citing concerns that the legislation could open the door for the United States to get sued, as well. Unsurprisingly, the government of Saudi Arabia has lobbied heavily against JASTA.
Despite becoming law due to presidential override, senators Graham and McCain have offered changes to avoid concerns. They are calling for an amendment so that only governments that knowingly engaged in terrorism can have lawsuits filed against them.
"We're asking we put a caveat to the law that just passed. Saying you can bring a lawsuit ... if they knowingly engage with a terrorist organization, directly or indirectly, including financing," the South Carolina senator said.
Family members and survivors are having none of it. The group representing them, 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism, issued a statement in response to the senators’ efforts, calling it a “betrayal.”
“Sen. Graham is now stabbing the 9/11 families in the back. He and Sen. McCain are seeking to torpedo JASTA by imposing changes demanded by Saudi Arabia’s lobbyists,” Terry Strada, the group’s national chairman, said. “We have reviewed the language, and it is an absolute betrayal.”
The group also notes the amendment has come forward after lobbying efforts from Saudi Arabia.