Two leading Republican voices on national security — Senators Bob Corker and Lindsey Graham — want to postpone a vote on whether to override President Barack Obama’s promised veto of legislation to let families of 9/11 terrorist attack victims sue Saudi Arabia, reports Bloomberg News.
The delay would give senators more time to consider the likelihood its enactment would “backfire on us” because “once we create the opportunity for U.S. citizens to sue another government we also open the door for the same thing to happen to us,” said Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Corker and Graham are raising concerns about the foreign policy ramifications of the legislation even though it sailed through both chambers and was sent to the president a day after the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest has said Obama will reject the legislation, though he hasn’t announced the timing of the planned veto.
Corker said in an interview that he hopes “the veto will come back after we are gone” so the Senate doesn’t vote on overriding it until after “a couple-months cooling period takes place.” The Senate could leave town by the end of next week if it completes work on a stopgap spending bill to fund the government when the fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
Corker and Graham are at odds with many of their colleagues in both parties including Republican Whip John Cornyn, who has pressed for a pre-election vote. A co-sponsor of the bill, Cornyn challenged Obama in a floor speech not to “leave the families dangling” and promptly issue a veto to enable a vote before Congress adjourns this month to go home and campaign.
Corker said a delay may allow the Senate to consider changing the bill. “Having some time go by could end up causing some constructive things to occur,” the Tennessee Republican said. “Might not, but I’m certain that by next Friday that won’t happen.”
South Carolina’s Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who also heads the Appropriations State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee, which writes the spending bill for U.S. embassies and diplomatic programs, said he wants to “buy some time here” to “make the bill more palatable but also be in the interest of the families.”
Graham said that the legislation threatens U.S. relations.
“The Saudis let me know in no uncertain terms that they see this bill as a hostile act,” he said. “I want to make sure that the families are taken care of here, but I have come to the conclusion that the person to blame for 9/11 is bin Laden.”
Note/Update: Sen. Corker’s staff has sent along this additional comment since this post first appeared: “Unless the White House offers a solution that appropriately addresses both sovereign immunity issues and the concerns of 9/11 families, the veto override will likely be overwhelming.”