President Obama said Wednesday that Congress made a “mistake” by overriding his veto of legislation that would allow U.S. citizens sue Saudi Arabia over the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
“Well, I think it was a mistake,” Obama said during a CNN town hall set to air Wednesday night.
He said the measure sets a "dangerous precedent" in international law that could have negative consequences for the U.S.
"It's an example of why sometimes you have to do what's hard," he added. "And, frankly, I wish Congress here had done what's hard."
But, he conceded, “I understand why it happened. Obviously, all of us still carry the scars and trauma of 9/11.”
The override, the first of Obama’s tenure, is a major blow to the president and raises questions about his diminishing sway over Capitol Hill and foreign policy four months before he leaves office.
Both chambers of Congress passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) unanimously earlier this year. And the Senate’s 97-1 override vote Wednesday was the most overwhelming since a 95-0 veto override vote in 1983.
The House voted 348-77 later Wednesday to negate Obama’s veto.
Obama reiterated his longstanding argument that the measure carries serious unintended consequences, despite the noble intentions of its supporters.
The president said the measure could erode the concept of sovereign immunity, leaving American citizens and assets abroad vulnerable to lawsuits if foreign countries pass reciprocal laws.
“The concern that I've had is -- has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia per se, or my sympathy for 9/11 families,” Obama said. “It has to do with me not wanting a situation in which we're suddenly exposed to liabilities for all the work that we're doing all around the world.”
Obama’s tone was more measured than that of his top spokesman, Josh Earnest, who earlier in the day called the override the “single most embarrassing thing that the United States Senate has done” in decades.