The House will vote Friday on a bill that could allow families of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia over its alleged support for terrorism, according to a GOP leadership aide.
The measure, which is likely to pass just in time for the 15th anniversary of the attacks, will send to the president’s desk a bill the White House has fiercely resisted over fears that it could harm the United States relationship with Saudi Arabia and establish a precedent that jeopardizes American officials overseas.
The bill, which the Senate passed in May despite indications the White House would veto it, would let courts waive foreign officials’ claims to sovereign immunity in cases involving terrorist acts on U.S. soil. It has been championed by victims’ families hoping to bring lawsuits against Saudi officials long suspected of supporting charities and organizations with links to terror groups.
Saudi Arabia has long denied such allegations and campaigned hard against the bill – but supporters shrugged off that pressure, arguing that if Saudis had done nothing wrong, they had nothing to worry about.
At the time the Senate passed the bill, victims’ families and lawmakers were still urging the release of 28 classified pages from a congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks concerning suspected connections between Saudi Arabian officials and the hijackers who carried out the attacks. Yet those pages, which were released in July, did not significantly add to information that had already been addressed in subsequent reports and documents that were made public.
That could have cleared the road for House action. But the development didn’t lead House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to publicly endorse the legislation. He remarked in July that “this ultimately doesn’t change what we know.”
On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was still cagey about a vote on the 9/11 bill, deferring scheduling questions to the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the issue.
But pressure to pass the legislation has intensified as the election draws closer. Passing the measure will now put the White House in the awkward position of making good on its threat to veto it.