US Senate passed legislation on May 17 that would allow families of Sept. 11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for its alleged involvement in the terrorist strikes.
Fifteen out of the nineteen hijackers in 2001 were Saudi citizens. The approval is setting up a potential showdown with the White House, which has threatened a veto. The bill passed on a voice vote, a rare feat in the divided chamber, especially for a controversial issue. The Justice against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) bill was sponsored by Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas and is expected to be passed by the House of Representatives soon.
The bill has been approved by a large number of the Democratic Senate members, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, putting them at odds with the Obama administration to indicate the division inside the Democratic Party.
A 1976 law in force gives foreign nations some immunity from lawsuits in US courts. The Senate bill carves out an exception to the law if foreign countries are found culpable for terrorist attacks that kill American citizens within the United States. If it were in force, the legislation could clear a path for the role of the Saudi government to be examined in the Sept. 11 suits.