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House to vote on Sept. 11 lawsuit bill opposed by Saudi Arabia

September 7, 2016

The U.S. House of Representatives plans to vote this week on Senate-passed legislation that would allow families of the Sept. 11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for liability in the attacks.

Saudi Arabia has strongly objected to the measure and it’s also opposed by the White House, but a House Republican aide said Tuesday that a vote will happen a few days ahead of the 15th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks. Speaker Paul Ryan declined to discuss plans for a vote on the measure, S. 2040, earlier Tuesday.

The bill passed the Senate in May by voice vote, indicating it has wide bipartisan support. If the House approves it, the measure would go to the president’s desk.

The White House has said it’s strongly opposed to the measure and could veto it, citing potential threats against U.S. servicemembers and diplomats abroad if the international principle of sovereign immunity is weakened. But a Senate Democratic aide says that the measure likely has enough congressional support to override a veto, which would be a first against President Barack Obama.

Relatives of some of those who died in the terror attacks want Congress to allow a legal path to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the role some Saudis played in the attacks.

The bill would permit civil claims against foreign officials and states for terrorist acts that occur within the U.S. That would enable courts to impose liability and assess financial punishments.

But some opponents say that would infringe on Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty. And others fear Saudi Arabia may follow through on threats it reportedly made earlier this year to sell off its holdings of U.S. Treasury debt and other assets in the U.S.

In April, Ryan said of the bill, “We need to make sure we are not making mistakes with our allies."

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