Obama Vetoes 9/11 Bill, Possible Override By Congress Looms | NBC Southern California
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

Obama Vetoes 9/11 Bill, Possible Override By Congress Looms

The measure would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    File - President Barack Obama addresses the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, Sept. 20, 2016, in New York City.

    President Barack Obama rejected a bill Friday that would have allowed the families of 9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia, arguing it undermined national security and setting up the possibility Congress may override his veto for the first time in his presidency.

    Obama's move escalates the fight over an emotional issue that has overlapped with the campaign debate over terrorism and the Middle East. The bill had sailed through both chambers of Congress with bipartisan support, clearing the final hurdle just days before the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

    Peggy Whitson Completes 8th Spacewalk

    [NATL] Peggy Whitson Completes 8th Spacewalk

    NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson floated out on the eighth spacewalk of her career Thursday morning, 250 miles up at the International Space Station. That's the most spacewalks ever performed by a woman. 

    (Published 5 hours ago)

    The president said the bill, which doesn't refer specifically to Saudi Arabia, could backfire by opening up the U.S. government and its officials to lawsuits by anyone accusing the U.S. of supporting terrorism, rightly or wrongly.

    "I have deep sympathy for the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001," Obama wrote to the Senate in a veto message about the bill, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. But, he said, "the JASTA would be detrimental to U.S. national interests more broadly."

    13 Killed in Head-on Highway Collision in Texas

    [NATL] 13 Killed in Head-on Highway Collision in Texas

    A church bus and a pick-up truck collided head-on on a highway west of San Antonio, Texas, on Wednesday. Thirteen people have died.

    (Published Wednesday, March 29, 2017)

    Congress is determined to try to overturn the veto, which requires a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate. Previous attempts to overturn Obama's vetoes have all been unsuccessful.

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said an override would pass in the Republican-controlled House. Yet the Senate would be the greater challenge. After furious lobbying to try to peel off supporters, the White House said Friday it was unclear whether enough had defected to avert an override.

    Samsung Unveils New Galaxy Smartphones

    [NATL] Samsung Unveils New Galaxy Smartphones

    Samsung unveiled its latest smartphones, the Galaxy 8 and 8+, at an event in New York City on Wednesday.  This is Samsung's first major phone release since issues with battery fires forced the company to recall all Note 7 smartphones.

    (Published Wednesday, March 29, 2017)

    With lawmakers eager to return home to campaign, a vote could come early next week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office said the Senate would vote "as soon as practicable in this work period."

    Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Senate's No. 3 Democrat and a traditional Obama ally, came out swinging against Obama while predicting lawmakers would reverse it "swiftly and soundly."

    "The families of the victims of 9/11 deserve their day in court, and justice for those families shouldn't be thrown overboard because of diplomatic concerns," Schumer said.

    A coalition of 9/11 victims' families, meanwhile, said they were "outraged and dismayed." In a response circulated by their lawyers, the families insisted the bill would deter terrorism, "no matter how much the Saudi lobbying and propaganda machine may argue otherwise."

    Severe Thunderstorms in Texas

    [NATL] Severe Thunderstorms in Texas

    Severe thunderstorms struck northern and western Texas overnight, producing wind gusts up to 70 mph and penny-sized hail. A tornado was spotted by residents of Stamford. One person was injured and up to 15 homes were damaged. At mid-day, over 127,000 households were without power.

    (Published Wednesday, March 29, 2017)

    Though the concept of sovereign immunity generally shields governments from lawsuits, the bill creates an exception that allows foreign governments to be held responsible if they support a terrorist attack that kills U.S. citizens on American soil. Opponents say that's a slippery slope considering that the U.S. is frequently accused wrongly by its foes of supporting terrorism.

    "Americans are in countries all over the world," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, a Republican, wrote Friday in a letter urging colleagues to support a veto. "Many of those countries do not respect the rule of law, and we cannot expect their responses to be as measured and narrow as ours."

    Prom Dress Guideline Fliers Slammed by Students for Sexism

    [NATL] 'Good Girl': Prom Dress Guideline Fliers Slammed by Students for Sexism

    Fliers posted at Stanton College Prep High sparked outrage from both female and male students in the Jacksonville, Florida, school. Students cited outdated "guidelines", as well as demeaning language, for the outcry.

    (Published Wednesday, March 29, 2017)

    Fifteen of the 19 men who carried out 9/11 were Saudi nationals. Families of the victims spent years lobbying lawmakers for the right to sue the kingdom in U.S. court for any role elements of Saudi Arabia's government may have played. Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally, strongly objected to the bill.

    Obama long had objected, too, warning that foreign countries might reciprocate by dragging American government, diplomats and military members before courts. The administration was also apprehensive about undermining a difficult yet strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia. The U.S. relies on the Saudis to counter Iran's influence in the Middle East and help combat the spread of terrorism.

    Pig Escapes Slaughterhouse Fate, Sells Original Paintings

    [NATL] Pig Escapes Slaughterhouse Fate, Sells Original Paintings

    A pig who escaped slaughter is now living out her life in a South African sanctuary and painting original works that have sold for up to $2,000.

    "She was really small when I rescued her," said Joanne Lefson, who manages the South African Farm Sanctuary, a haven for rescued farm animals where the pig now lives. "She's very smart and intelligent so I placed a few balls and some paintbrushes and things in her pen, and it wasn't long before I discovered that she really liked the bristles and the paintbrush...She just really took a knack for it."

    Funds from the art sales go towards the sanctuary.

    (Published Wednesday, March 29, 2017)

    Since the bill's passage, the White House has lobbied aggressively to persuade lawmakers to withdraw support, and found some sympathetic listeners. The bill had passed by voice vote - meaning lawmakers didn't have to go on the record with their positions — and the White House was hoping the prospect of a recorded vote would lead some Democrats to reconsider publicly rebuking their president.

    Debate about the bill has spilled onto the presidential campaign trail, as candidates vie to appear tough on terrorism. The issue is one of a few where Democrat Hillary Clinton, who supports the bill, has publicly disagreed with Obama. Trump, too, backs it, and said Obama's veto was "shameful and will go down as one of the low points of his presidency."

    Clinton Gives First Major Post-Election Speech

    [NATL] Hillary Clinton Gives First Major Post-Election Speech at Event for Businesswomen

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave her first major public speech on Tuesday since losing the 2016 presidential election, speaking at a meeting of the Professional Businesswomen of California organization in San Fransisco, California.

    (Published Wednesday, March 29, 2017)

    The bill had triggered a perceived threat by Saudi Arabia to pull billions of dollars from the U.S. economy if it was enacted. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said in May the kingdom never issued threats, but had merely warned that investor confidence in the U.S. would shrink if the bill became law.

    The House vote on Sept. 9 came two months after Congress released 28 declassified pages from a congressional report into 9/11. The pages reignited speculation over links that at least a few of the attackers had to Saudis, including government officials. The allegations were never substantiated by later U.S. investigations.

    Mom Tells Son's Story in Fight for NIH Funding

    [NATL-DC] Mom Tells Son's Story in Fight for NIH Funding

    Pediatric cancer research is one of the least funded and proposed budget cuts to NIH will deplete it even more. A family whose child died from pediatric cancer is testifying on Capitol Hill Wednesday, March 29, to save the funding. Tammi and Jason Carr in Michigan founded the ChadTough Foundation to honor their son Chad, who died at age 5 after battling a brain tumor. News4’s Shomari Stone reports. 

    (Published Tuesday, March 28, 2017)