Despite Misgivings, Corker Votes To Let 9/11 Families Sue The Saudi Government

Sep 28, 2016

Sen. Bob Corker has agreed to let the families of 9/11 victims sue the government of Saudi Arabia, even though he says he continues to have grave concerns over where it might lead.

The Tennessee Republican and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was among the 97 senators who voted to override President Barack Obama's veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. The measure lets Americans sue in domestic courts if they believe a foreign government was involved in a terrorist attack.

The vote marks the first override of an Obama veto.

Corker was one of the few senators to have expressed open reservations about the act. He has warned that letting Americans sue foreign governments will have dangerous consequences for the country. Corker said it will damage relations with the nation's allies and open the door to other countries suing the United States.

"I think this bill has problems. I think that we will be dealing with overcoming this over time," Corker said in a speech from the Senate floor shortly before the override vote Wednesday.

Nations are generally protected from lawsuits by the concept of "sovereign immunity," the idea that you can't sue a foreign government in your country's courts.

But the families of 9/11 victims say a lawsuit will help them uncover what role, if any, the Saudi government played in the terrorist attacks. Corker said they deserve a way to seek justice, even if he has misgivings about the aftereffects.

He decided to support the measure after meeting with them and praying, he said.

"I've had tremendous difficulty with this one," Corker said. "I'm going to support passage of this legislation today, but I do so understanding that there could be, in fact, unintended consequences that work against our national interest and with a determination, should that occur, to work with others in this body to try to overcome that."