Throughout Obama’s presidency, his vetoes have always survived Congressional challenges. That his first might be a bill about Saudi Arabia reflects waning Saudi influence in lobbying Congress to get their way, and what would likely have once been a very safe veto is now at serious risk.
Obama’s Friday veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) aims to block a bill that would allow family members of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in American courts. The House and Senate both passed JASTA unanimously, and many in both parties are expressing confidence they have the votes for an override of the veto.
The House was widely expected to override easily, but Sen. Chuck Schumer (D – NY) insisted that the Senate too would “quickly” override Obama’s veto, insisting that the Saudis must be held accountable if the courts find they were culpable in 9/11.
President Obama has warned that the JASTA would set a dangerous legal precedent, warning that allowing individual lawsuits against the Saudi government could lead to other countries allowing their own citizens to sue the US government over its own misdeeds.
The Administration had originally hoped to keep the veto and override votes until after the November elections, hoping it would make newly reelected senators more willing to listen to Saudi lobbyists and less concerned about strong voter support for the bill. Saudi lobbying clearly isn’t what it once was, however, and those senators that switch sides on the override now risk serious repercussions in the election.