Apparently Congress will never learn that "passing a piece of legislation so you can see what's in it" is never a good strategy. It certainly didn't work out well with Obamacare and it looks to be backfiring with the controversial 9/11 bill as well with many members of Congress expressing remorse over supporting the bill just 1 day after overriding Obama's veto. Per The Hill, both Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have expressed some concerns with the bill just 1 day after passing it:
"We want to make sure the 9/11 victims and their families have their day in court," Ryan told reporters. "At the same time, I would like to think that there may be some work to be done to protect our service members overseas from any kind of legal ensnarements that occur, any kind of retribution."
“Everybody was aware of who the potential beneficiaries were but nobody had really focused on the potential downside in terms of our international relationships, and I think it was just a ball dropped,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told reporters Thursday, saying it was worth discussing possible fixes after the elections.
“I don't think we had enough time to consider all of the ramifications,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said on Tuesday. “It's a political issue that people jumped on without really thoroughly looking at everything.”
Pointing out that members of Congress couldn't possibly be expected to read legislation or conduct any other form of due diligence on their own, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed the White House. Per The Hill:
“It seems to be a failure to communicate early about the potential consequences of a piece of legislation that was obviously very popular."
“I wish the president -- I hate to blame everything on him and I don’t, but it would have been helpful if we had a discussion on this much earlier than last week,” he added.
Which, of course, White House press secretary Josh Earnest quickly seized upon by comparing Congress to a bunch of ignorant elementary school kids, saying "what's true in elementary school is true in the United States Congress: Ignorance is not an excuse."
So how did we get here?
Per Bloomberg, the September 11 families for years had pushed for the legislation, after repeated efforts to hold members of the Saudi royal family responsible were blocked in court, thanks to a 1976 law giving foreign states immunity in U.S. courts. Saudi officials have long been accused of having links to the 9/11 hijackers as fifteen of the nineteen men who brought down passenger planes that day were Saudi citizens.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) championed the effort for at least seven years and in 2015, he teamed up with Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) to offer the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). The bill altered existing U.S. law to allow victims of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil to sue foreign governments that are not officially designated as sponsors of terrorism — like Saudi Arabia.
Despite lobbying efforts from the Obama administration, the Senate passed the measure unanimously in May 2016. Months later, the House also passed the measure unanimously.
When President Barack Obama vetoed the measure, he issued a detailed lengthy explanation, warning that allowing such lawsuits against foreign governments “based solely upon allegations by private litigants” may “lead to suits against the United States or U.S. officials for actions taken by members of an armed group that received U.S. assistance, misuse of U.S. military equipment by foreign forces, or abuses committed by police units that received U.S. training,” even if the lawsuits are “without merit."
But Congress was not convinced and voted to override the veto by a 97-1 vote in the Senate 348-77 vote in the House. Per the Washington Post:
“Overriding a presidential veto is something we don’t take lightly, but it was important in this case that the families of the victims of 9/11 be allowed to pursue justice, even if that pursuit causes some diplomatic discomforts,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who co-authored the bill with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), said in a statement.
“Ultimately these senators are going to have to answer their own conscience and their constituents as they account for their actions today,” Earnest said, noting that at least one GOP senator said some of his colleagues had failed to read the bill before voting on it initially. “To have members of the United States Senate only recently informed of the negative impact of this bill on our service members and our diplomats is in itself embarrassing.”
As Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, pointed out to the Washington Post, the biggest issue with the bill is that it opens the U.S. government up to "court-ordered discovery."
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.
Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in an interview that it could take time to grasp the bill’s full implications, and there may be “some time to tweak the law before some of the most damaging consequences become clear.”
“But the biggest issue is that it opens up government agencies to court-ordered discovery,” Alterman said, adding that the federal government could face lawsuits from those who have been victims of drone strikes and other American military activities. “It’s not limited to Saudi Arabia, and it’s likely to have a much larger impact on the U.S. government than the Saudi government, because the U.S. government takes rules very seriously.”
But we're not too concerned about the whole discovery issue...our high-ranking government officials have thoroughly demonstrated a masterful ability to circumvent federal subpoenas and destroy emails and other evidence with relative ease...BleachBit is about to get a lot more use.