U.S. lawmakers expressed doubts on Thursday about Sept. 11 legislation they forced on President Barack Obama, saying the new law allowing lawsuits against Saudi Arabia could be narrowed to ease concerns about its effect on Americans abroad.
A day after a rare overwhelming rejection of a presidential veto, the first during Obama’s eight years in the White House, the Republican leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives opened the door to fixing the law as they blamed the Democratic president for not consulting them adequately.
“I do think it is worth further discussing,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters, acknowledging that there could be “potential consequences” of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, known as JASTA.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said Congress might have to “fix” the legislation to protect U.S. troops in particular.
Ryan did not give a time frame, but Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he thought JASTA could be addressed in Congress’ “lame-duck” session after the Nov. 8 election.
The law grants an exception to the legal principle of sovereign immunity in cases of terrorism on U.S. soil, clearing the way for lawsuits seeking damages from the Saudi government. Riyadh denies longstanding suspicions that it backed the hijackers who attacked the United States in 2001.
Sept. 11 families lobbied intensely for the bill, getting it passed by the House days before the 15th anniversary of the 2001 attacks earlier this month after years of effort.
“We have to understand the political environment we’re in right now and the tremendous support the 9/11 victims have in the United States,” said Robert Jordan, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
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