Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Urges Veto Override of 9/11 Bill

Sep 23, 2016
Press Release
Victims of Terrorism Deserve Justice

“Who Do We Care More About, the Saudi King or 9/11 Families?”

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan today called on Congress to override President Obama’s expected veto of legislation that allows American victims of terrorism to sue foreign countries involved in the attacks.

The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which Buchanan has co-sponsored and championed, was unanimously approved by the U.S. House earlier this month and by the U.S. Senate in May.

The president is expected to veto the bill later today. A two-thirds vote in both chambers is required to override the veto and enact the legislation. If Congress achieves a two-thirds vote next week, it would be the first override of President Obama’s tenure.

“Who do we care more about, the Saudi king or the 9/11 families?” Buchanan said. “Congress should stand strong and support the families of 9/11 victims. It has been a painful 15 years for these families – they’ve waited long enough for justice.”

The bill ensures that American victims of terrorism, including the families of those who lost their lives on 9/11, can pursue civil claims against terrorists and those who aided and abetted them. Currently, victims of terrorism can only sue countries officially designated by the State Department as sponsors of terrorism, such as Iran and Syria, but not Saudi Arabia.

Since Congress sent the legislation to the president’s desk two weeks ago Republican and Democrat leaders in the U.S. Senate have said they may have enough support to meet a two-thirds majority to override a presidential veto.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters Tuesday he expects the Senate will successfully vote to override the president’s impending veto before Congress leaves for October recess. This would be the first veto override vote since President Obama took office in January 2009.

“Each of these families deserves their day in court,” Buchanan said. “Any further delay of this legislation is unconscionable.”

Buchanan noted that this legislation restores a long-established principle of American law that foreign governments are not immune from their role in aiding acts of terrorism.

Critics have long suspected that Saudi Arabia’s government may have either directly or indirectly supported the deadly terrorist attacks. And while the kingdom has admitted that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals, the country has not been formally implicated in the attacks to date.

Saudi Arabia has threatened to sell off American assets in retaliation if the legislation passes.

Florida’s 16th Congressional District has a tragic connection to the 9/11 attacks. President George W. Bush was reading to children in a Sarasota elementary school when he learned that a second airliner had crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City. In addition, two 9/11 hijackers – Mohammed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi – took flight lessons in Venice, Florida beginning in the summer of 2000.

Buchanan has long pushed for justice for the victims of 9/11. He also co-sponsored the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act in the 113th Congress and has previously written to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., in support of the bill.