Just two days before the fifteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow its victims to sue Saudi Arabia.
The Senate passed the bill in May by a voice vote, and the House voted on Sept. 9 to pass the measure, CNN reports.
The diplomatic and legal communities have reportedly pushed back on the bill given the precedent it would set.
“This bill passed overwhelmingly in the U.S. Senate, so I think that those concerns have been taken under consideration and members are acting accordingly and that’s why this bill will pass,” Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan of Maryland said about the concerns.
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Saudi Arabia denies its involvement in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but 15 of the 19 hijackers were of Saudi descent. Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir said that if the bill becomes law, then the country would sell $750 billion in U.S. assets, including treasury securities.
President Barack Obama said in April he would veto the bill, according to Reuters. On Sept. 9, The White House reiterated Obama's stance after the House vote.
"We are in the same place we were the last time," a White House official said.
In May, White House press secretary Josh Earnest explained the Obama Administration’s concerns regarding the legislation, according to CNN:
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I know that the advocates of this legislation have suggested that they have taken into account our concerns by more narrowly tailoring the legislation. But, unfortunately, their efforts were not sufficient to prevent the longer-term, unintended consequences that we are concerned about. This legislation would change longstanding international law regarding sovereign immunity. And the President of the United States continues to harbor serious concerns that this legislation would make the United States vulnerable in other court systems around the world.
U.S. lawmakers who support the legislation believe international acts of terrorism should be exceptions when it comes to legal liability.
"We can no longer allow those who injure and kill Americans to hide behind legal loopholes, denying justice to the victims of terrorism," House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia, said.
"There are always diplomatic considerations that get in the way of justice, but if a court proves the Saudis were complicit in 9/11, they should be held accountable," Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, a sponsor of the Senate bill, said. "If they've done nothing wrong, they have nothing to worry about."
The bill was sent to the president's desk, where Obama will choose to sign it into law or veto it.