WASHINGTON, (Xinhua) — The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed legislation allowing the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. courts, despite the threat by the White House to veto the bill.
The bill, which passed the Senate unanimously in May, now heads to President Barack Obama’s desk. The White House has expressed opposition to the measure.
It would require votes from two-thirds of the members in the House and Senate to override a veto.
“Given the concerns we have expressed, it’s difficult to imagine the president signing this legislation,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said when the bill passed the Senate in May.
“This legislation would change long-standing, international law regarding sovereign immunity,” Earnest said, adding that Obama continues to harbor “serious concerns” that this legislation would make the United States vulnerable in other court systems around the world.
The legislation has also drawn criticism from the Saudi government.
Saudi Arabia has told the Obama administration and members of Congress that it will sell off hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American assets held by the kingdom if Congress passes the bill, The New York Times reported in April.
Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, delivered the kingdom’s message personally in March during a trip to Washington, telling lawmakers that Saudi Arabia would be forced to sell up to 750 billion U.S. dollars in treasury securities and other assets in the United States before they could be in danger of being frozen by American courts, The New York Times reported.
Families of the Sept. 11 victims have used the courts to try to hold members of the Saudi royal family, Saudi banks and charities liable because of what the plaintiffs charged was Saudi financial support for terrorism. These efforts have largely been stymied, in part because of a 1976 law that gives foreign nations some immunity from lawsuits in American courts.
Saudi officials have long denied that the kingdom had any role in the plot of the 2001 terror attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington D.C area and Pennsylvania.