from the first-time-for-everything dept.
For the first time since President Obama took office in 2009, Congress has overridden his veto.
The U.S. Senate voted 97-1 to override President Obama's veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which would allow victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia. The lone dissenting vote was Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), who has "always had the president's back":
In a letter Monday to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.) and ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter warned that allowing the bill to become law risked "damaging our close and effective cooperation with other countries" and "could ultimately have a chilling effect on our own counter-terrorism efforts." Thornberry and Smith both circulated letters among members in the last few days, urging them to vote against overriding the veto. CIA Director John O. Brennan also warned of the 9/11 bill's "grave implications for the national security of the United States" in a statement Wednesday.
Congress on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to override a veto by President Obama for the first time, passing into law a bill that would allow the families of those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for any role in the plot.
Democrats in large numbers joined with Republicans to deliver a remarkable rebuke to the president. The 97-to-1 vote in the Senate and the 348-to-77 vote in the House displayed the enduring power of the Sept. 11 families in Washington and the diminishing influence here of the Saudi government.
Ahead of the US president's visit to Saudi Arabia, a series of multi-billion-dollar arms deals have been outlined. The previous US administration suspended some supplies because of human rights concerns.
When President Trump arrives in Riyadh this week, he will lay out his vision for a new regional security architecture White House officials call an “Arab NATO,” to guide the fight against terrorism and push back against Iran. As a cornerstone of the plan, Trump will also announce one of the largest arms-sales deals in history.
Behind the scenes, the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia have been conducting extensive negotiations, led by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The discussions began shortly after the presidential election, when Mohammed, known in Washington as “MBS,” sent a delegation to meet with Kushner and other Trump officials at Trump Tower.
After years of disillusionment with the Obama administration, the Saudi leadership was eager to do business. “They were willing to make a bet on Trump and on America,” a senior White House official said.
[...] The most concrete part of the idea is a mammoth U.S. arms package for Saudi Arabia that Trump will also announce in Riyadh. Final details are still being worked out, but officials said the package will include between $98 billion and $128 billion in arms sales. Over 10 years, total sales could reach $350 billion.
The sales include huge upgrades for the Saudi army and navy to include Littoral Combat Ships, THAAD missile defense systems, armored personnel carriers, missiles, bombs and munitions, officials said. Some of the production and assembly could be located in Saudi Arabia, boosting MBS’s project to build a Saudi domestic defense industrial capability. But most of the items would be built by American defense contractors.
President Obama plans to veto a bipartisan bill that would create an exception to the sovereign immunity doctrine, allowing victims of state-sponsored terrorism to sue foreign governments:
President Barack Obama will veto a bill that would allow terror victims of the attacks on September 11, 2001, to sue Saudi Arabia, the White House said Monday. "That's still the plan," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said when asked if the President planned to veto the bill. The White House had previously suggested Obama would not sign the bill when it first passed the Senate in May saying it would complicate diplomatic relations. [...] Lawmakers are expected to attempt to override the veto, and if successful, would mark the first time in Obama's presidency.
The bill passed in the House and Senate unanimously.