9/11 Justice Long Overdue... It is time to pass JASTA....
WASHINGTON – David Ziminski of Tarrytown joined other 9/11 families outside the White House on Tuesday in a demonstration that urged President Obama to act quickly to either sign or veto a bill that would allow them to sue Saudi Arabia in federal court.
Ziminski, who lost his wife in the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, said Obama is “playing politics’’ and using a “political bag of tricks’’ by not acting on the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).
Ziminski and other 9/11 family members expect Obama will veto the bill.
“Don’t hold us hostage,’’ Ziminski said, explaining his message to the president. “Go ahead and veto the bill. We’ll move on to get the override votes to override your veto. That’s why we’re here today. Justice delayed is a terrible thing for us.’’
White House spokesman Josh Earnest recently reaffirmed the president’s intent to veto the bill, which passed the House by voice vote Sept. 9 and the Senate by unanimous consent in mid-May. The measure would allow 9/11 families and survivors to sue Saudi Arabia based on claims the country played a role in the attacks.
Current law allows such lawsuits against countries considered state sponsors of terrorism. As a military ally, Saudi Arabia doesn't rate that label.
"Justice delayed is a terrible thing for us.’’
– David Ziminski of Tarrytown
Earnest also said JASTA would threaten the safety of U.S. diplomats and military service personnel stationed in countries that might take similar actions against Americans.
Families of the 9/11 victims say the legislation would allow several lawsuits -- consolidated into one case on behalf of 9/11 victims and several insurance companies -- to proceed, as lawyers attempt to prove Saudi government involvement in the terrorist plot.
The bill specifically provides an exception to sovereign immunity for countries involved in terrorist attacks inside the United States.
Alison Crowther of Nyack, whose son, Welles Remy Crowther, worked as an equities trader in the World Trade Center and was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, said the legislation "is a weapon in our nonviolent arsenal'' against terrorism.
Crowther spoke at a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol later in the day when the 9/11 families were joined by Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. Blumenthal assured reporters that lawmakers will "be eager to be on the record'' during an override vote, which he predicted would succeed.
An override vote on JASTA would be the first override of President Obama's tenure.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday he wants votes on JASTA before the October recess.
The several-dozen 9/11 families who gathered in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House and later at the U.S. Capitol are annoyed by what they perceive as a delaying tactic by the president.
“This bill is not really for me -- it’s for the next 9/11 people,’’ said William Dietrich of Peapeck, N.J., whose wife died in the World Trade Center attack. “There were explosions in New Jersey and New York just the last few days. What’s happens when one of these politicians' kids or one of their loved ones is standing next to a trash can with a backpack with a bomb in it? How much Saudi money is going to make them feel better then?’’
New York Sen. Charles Schumer, a cosponsor of the bill with Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, issued a statement Tuesday saying the legislation is “the on brink’’ of becoming law.
“The administration should rethink their planned veto of this bill but if they won’t, they ought to move quickly so that Congress has the chance to vote to override – the sooner the better,’’ Schumer said. “There will always be diplomatic concerns that get in the way of justice, but if the Saudis were complicit in 9/11, then they ought to be held accountable. If not, they have nothing to worry about.”
Cornyn, who met with 9/11 families Tuesday morning, urged a quick veto, if that's Obama's plan.
"If you're going to veto it, veto it and send it back to us so we can have the vote to override that veto, which I'm confident we will," he said.