A bipartisan group of senators proposed legislation this week that would overturn a court interpretation of current law that has blocked a lawsuit brought by 9/11 victims against Saudi Arabia for supporting al Qaeda.
The bill introduced by Sen. Chuck SchumerCharles SchumerMcConnell: Senate could vote on 3 Trump nominees Friday CBO: 18 million could lose coverage after ObamaCare repeal Week ahead: Trump's health pick takes the hot seat MORE (D-N.Y.) would amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) and the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) to clarify that victims of terrorist acts in the U.S. can hold the foreign sponsors of those attacks responsible in U.S. courts. Co-sponsoring the bill are Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin HatchOrrin HatchSenate Finance panel to hold Price hearing next week Overnight Finance: Price puts stock trading law in spotlight | Lingering questions on Trump biz plan | Sanders, Education pick tangle over college costs Trump Treasury pick gets support from ex-mortgage assistance leader MORE (R-Utah), and Sens. John CornynJohn CornynMcConnell: Senate could vote on 3 Trump nominees Friday Senate seeks deal on Trump nominees Overnight Healthcare: Takeaways from Price's hearing | Trump scrambles GOP health plans MORE (R-Texas), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamTrump’s UN pick threads needle on Russia, NATO Haley slams United Nations, echoing Trump Haley to question US funding of UN: report MORE (R-S.C.), and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseFive takeaways from Pruitt's EPA hearing Health pick’s trades put STOCK Act in spotlight Dems prepare to face off with Trump's pick to lead EPA MORE (D-R.I.).
But Schumer said this decision reflects an incorrect interpretation of FSIA and ATA, and is "contrary to the plain language" of those laws.
"[T]aken together, the FSIA and ATA were designed to enable terrorism victims to bring suit against foreign states and terror sponsors when they support terrorism against the United States," Schumer said. "I am introducing this bill because I want the survivors of the 9/11 tragedy to have their day in court — and they were deprived of this by a court ruling that contorted the language and purpose of the FSIA and the ATA."
The Executive Branch has traditionally opposed these sorts of bills because of the possibility that they would interfere with its conduct of foreign policy. But Schumer said this sort of argument should not stick against his bill, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism act (JASTA), because it would not prevent the administration from settling claims for redress through an executive agreement.
"This is an executive authority that has been recognized and utilized going back to the administration of George Washington, and nothing in JASTA interferes with it," he said. "Nothing in this act would interfere with the execution of our foreign policy."