Senators already eyeing changes to 9/11 bill after veto override
© Greg Nash

With Congress overriding President Obama for the first time, lawmakers in both parties are already eyeing changes to the law at the heart of the showdown.  

The Senate voted 97-1 to override the president's veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), but a bipartisan group of senators indicated Wednesday that they remain concerned about potential retaliation against Americans.  

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Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDemocratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe Barr threatens tech's prized legal shield Barr has considered resigning over Trump tweets about DOJ: reports MORE (R-S.C.) said lawmakers need to make sure they didn't open "Pandora's box" and reassure Saudi Arabia that Congress isn't "finding them guilty of 9/11." 

"I think the things we can do that would preserve the right to sue here in America ... but also minimize the exposure we have overseas," he added. "We need to think hard about how to modify this bill." 

Graham, who supported the veto override, estimated that approximately 20 senators currently support changing the bill, something he thinks could happen as soon as the end-of-year lame-duck session.

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerMcConnell, Romney vie for influence over Trump's trial RNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight MORE (R-Tenn.), who also supported the veto override, said he agrees that 9/11 families deserve an "outlet" and has had talks with "people in Europe about a tribunal being set up."

"I think most senators felt like the best way to try to influence that over time was to go ahead and acknowledge that the victims need an outlet," he said. "[But] there are concerns. ... I think there's a desire to get this into a better place."

But senators would likely face an uphill battle, with the legislation easily passing through Congress unanimously earlier this year. Graham said he's had "brief" conversations with Sens. John CornynJohn CornynTrump Medicaid proposal sparks bipartisan warnings Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Booker, Cornyn introduce bill to fund school nutrition programs MORE (R-Texas) and Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerBarr to testify before House Judiciary panel Graham won't call Barr to testify over Roger Stone sentencing recommendation Roger Stone witness alleges Trump targeted prosecutors in 'vile smear job' MORE (D-N.Y.), who spearheaded JASTA.

Cornyn, however, downplayed the chances of tweaks to the legislation passing Congress.

"I'll talk to anybody," he told reporters. "But I can't imagine what those [changes] would be."

Twenty-eight senators, including Graham, sent a letter to Cornyn and Schumer on Wednesday saying that "concerns have been raised regarding potential unintended consequences."

"We would hope to work with you in a constructive manner to appropriately mitigate those unintended consequences," they said in the letter. 

In addition to Corker and Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinDemocrats worried about Trump's growing strength Senate Democrats queasy over Sanders as nominee Schumer: Trump address 'demagogic, undignified, highly partisan' MORE (D-Md.), the top members of the Foreign Relations Committee, the letter was signed by Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDemocratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe House passes bipartisan bill to create women's history museum Democrats bullish on bill to create women's history museum: 'It's an election year' MORE (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainAdvice for fellow Democrats: Don't count out Biden, don't fear a brokered convention McSally ties Democratic rival Kelly to Sanders in new ad Eleventh Democratic presidential debate to be held in Phoenix MORE (R-Ariz.) and Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedLawmakers wary as US on cusp of initial deal with Taliban Pavlich: The Senate defends its integrity Five Senate Democrats make impeachment case in Spanish MORE (D-R.I.), the top members of the Armed Services Committee.

Cardin, while announcing his support for the veto override Wednesday, stressed that he would work with colleagues on potential changes.

"I intent to explore with my colleagues the possibility of whether we need or will need additional legislative action," he said. "Such additional legislation would allow justice for the family members of victims of the 9/11 attack while ameliorating some of the potential adverse consequences of JASTA." 

Though the Senate overwhelmingly nixed the president's veto, a handful of lawmakers publicly expressed skepticism about the bill in the days leading up to Wednesday's vote. Lawmakers, however, argue their push to try to find an alternative before the vote was largely ignored by the Obama administration. 

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTimeline: Trump and Romney's rocky relationship Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock Trump awards Medal of Freedom to racing industry icon Roger Penske MORE (R-Utah), who said he hasn't heard from the White House, said the legislation turned into a "political issue."

"I don't think we had enough time to consider all of the ramifications," Hatch, who is a co-sponsor of the original bill, said Tuesday. "I'm worried about getting into a tremendous legal morass that could really cost this country."