Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Votes to Override Obama Veto of 9/11 Families Bill

Sep 28, 2016
Press Release
Buchanan-Backed Legislation Now Law

“Victims of Terrorism Deserve Justice, And Nothing Less”

WASHINGTON — With U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s strong support, Congress today voted overwhelmingly to override President Obama’s 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 upheld following a 97-1 vote in the Senate and a 348-77 vote by the House. This marks the first veto override since President Obama took office.

“Congress sent a clear message today: victims of terrorism deserve justice, and nothing less,” Buchanan said. “As a strong advocate and supporter of this bill, I’m happy that these families will now be able to have their day in court.”

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.

Contrary to arguments made by the Obama administration, the legislation does not provide justification for foreign lawsuits against the United States and does not open the door to lawsuits against military officials or any other individuals, according to a former general counsel of the National Security Council.

“Make no mistake: if Americans are harmed, justice will be served,” Buchanan said. “After fifteen years of road blocks and unanswered questions, this bill gives the families of 9/11 victims a legal path to holding the terrorists accountable.”

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.