On Wednesday Obama experienced a first in his two political terms in office. His veto of a bill on September 23, 2016 was overridden in a bipartisan vote in the Senate and the House of Representatives. This was in regards to the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which would allow Americans to sue foreign governments.
Until this week he had never had a single veto overturned by Congress. The vote broke down as follows, in the Senate 97 to 1, and in the House 348 to 77 meeting the two-thirds majority required to overturn Obama’s veto.
Overview of JASTA
JASTA would allow for American victims of terrorism to sue the governments of other nations. Its most pressing real world application would be allowing the families of the September 11 terrorist attacks to sue the Saudi Arabian government for its role in them.
The bill was originally reintroduced in September of 2015 and sponsored by Senators John Cornyn, (R-Texas), and Chuck Schumer, (D-NY). The Senate passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) back in May of 2016. It had overwhelming support in the Senate, and went through by voice vote.
JASTA was then sponsored in the House of Representatives by Peter King, (R-NY), and Jerrold Nadler, (D- NY). It also passed in the House of Representatives by a unanimous voice vote on September 12, 2016.
President Obama was not pleased with his veto being overturned, and JASTA becoming law. This put the White House at odds with the Democrats in the Senate and the House who did not agree with Obama on this issue. In response to the overturning of his veto he told CNN:
The concern that I’ve had has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia per se or my sympathy for 9/11 families, it has to do with me not wanting a situation in which we’re suddenly exposed to liabilities for all the work that we’re doing all around the world, and suddenly finding ourselves subject to the private lawsuits in courts where we don’t even know exactly whether they’re on the up and up, in some cases. - Barrack Obama
Major concerns to the Obama Administration with JASTA include opening up American citizens and the U.S. government to being sued, as well as souring relations with Saudi Arabia.