US House approves bill letting 11/09 families sue Saudi Arabia

The House approved on Friday a bill to allow families of those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for any role in the terrorist plot, setting up a rare bipartisan showdown with the White House, reported The New York Times

The Senate passed the measure by voice vote in May, but the administration has argued it would complicate diplomatic relations with a key ally in the region and warned against moving it forward, reported CNN.

The vote to send the bill to the President comes two days before the 15th anniversary of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans.

House Speaker Paul Ryan was pressed about the pushback from some in the diplomatic and legal community about the precedent it would set, but said, “this bill passed overwhelmingly in the US Senate so I think that those concerns have been taken into consideration, and members are acting accordingly and that’s why this bill will pass.

In fact, the measure was never debated on the House or Senate floors. It reflects a growing desire to re-examine Washington’s alliance with the kingdom, which for decades has been a cornerstone of American foreign policy in the Middle East, said The New York Times.

Other measures, like a bipartisan one that would seek to block the sale of some tanks to the kingdom, are also on the horizon.

President Obama says he is strongly opposed to the measure, and the White House has signaled that he would veto it.

Lawmakers felt intense pressure from families of the victims of the attacks, who wanted the legislation to be passed before the 15th anniversary of 11/09 on Sunday. That may account for the bill jumping from a committee room to an expedited vote on the House floor.

“The families have been asking for this for over a decade,” said Terry Strada, whose husband, Thomas S. Strada, was killed in the attack on the World Trade Center towers. She has long lobbied Congress on the issue. “We don’t feel this is fast-track in any way, shape or form,” she said.