Republicans join Obama in squelching right for victims’ families to sue
House Speaker Paul Ryan greets President Barack Obama after he made remarks at the speaker’s annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon on Capitol Hill on March 15. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
A Senate bill that would allow families of those killed in the 9/11 attacks to sue the Saudi government has achieved a rare Washington distinction, by uniting the Obama administration and some of its fiercest GOP critics.
President Barack Obama, Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., are rallying to kill the bipartisan plan that would make it possible for American citizens to sue foreign governments believed to be linked to terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest warned the legislation could lead other countries to craft even broader versions that could do significant harm to the U.S. government.“It certainly is plausible … that that other countries when they’re implementing these laws would not tailor them so specifically,” Earnest said. “And that does open up the United States to a unique degree of risk, and putting our country, our taxpayers, our service members and our diplomats in legal jeopardy in that way is contrary to our interests.”
Earnest said it would be “unwise” for the Senate to pass the legislation, “particularly when there is an alternative mechanism for us to resolve these kinds of issues with other countries.”
That alternative, he said, is “the essence of diplomacy.”
Shortly before Earnest appeared in the White House briefing room, Ryan spoke out against the so-called ‘9/11 bill.’
“I think we need to look at it,” Ryan told reporters at the Capitol. “I think we need to review it to make sure we are not making mistakes with our allies and that we’re not catching people in this that shouldn’t be caught up in this.
“The White House is opposed to it. It’s received some opposition here. We’re going to let these things work the process,” he added. “We’ll see where it goes from there.”
Administration officials are “gratified” to have Ryan as an ally as they try to block the legislation.