The top House Democrat overseeing military issues began urging lawmakers Sunday to back President Barack Obama’s veto of legislation to allow 9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia for any alleged role in the attacks.
It’s still almost a certain bet that Congress will override Obama’s veto Friday of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA, which passed Congress with no objections earlier this year. But a new “Dear Colleague” letter from Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) shows opposition is starting to form publicly, at least in some corners of the Capitol.
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In the letter, obtained by POLITICO, Smith argued that the legislation would put “U.S. personnel at risk” by “weakening the international protections that shield them against prosecution in civil and criminal courts around the world.” Specifically, the legislation waives so-called “sovereign immunity” protections for foreign governments found responsible for terrorism on U.S. soil, and Smith argues that other countries are likely to retaliate against U.S. officials abroad.
The Obama administration has aired similar objections against the bill.
“Taking this policy path will end up doing the United States more harm than good,” Smith wrote in the letter to fellow Democratic lawmakers, which he began circulating on Sunday. “Because of the reach of our global interests and commitments, U.S. personnel are present all over the world. We have far more at stake as a result, and it is our personnel who will incur the most risk if we erode their legal protections.”
Smith’s counterpart, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), circulated his own “Dear Colleague” letter among Republicans urging lawmakers to sustain the veto. But it’s unclear how much those arguments are resonating with lawmakers.
The Senate plans to vote on overriding Obama’s veto before senators leave Washington until November. If it …