78 lawmakers vote to sustain Obama veto

78 lawmakers vote to sustain Obama veto
© Getty Images

Eighteen Republicans joined 60 Democrats on Wednesday to vote to uphold President Obama’s veto of a bill allowing the families of Sept. 11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia.

In the Senate, only Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDemocratic insiders stay on the sidelines in 2020 race Harry Reid calls for end to all caucuses Reid pushes back on Sanders suggestion that a Democrat with plurality of delegates should be the nominee MORE (D-Nev.) moved in support of the president’s veto — although shortly after the vote, 28 senators sent a letter urging the bill’s crafters to address specific “unintended consequences” of the legislation.


In the House, five of the Republican votes to sustain came from committee chairmen: Oversight Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzThe myth of the conservative bestseller Elijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 House Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records MORE (R-Utah), Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (Calif.), Rules Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas), Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (Texas) and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (Minn.).

Only one member of House Democratic leadership voted to sustain the president's veto: Rep. Jim Clyburn (S.C.).

All of the other members in the top ranks of House Democratic leadership found themselves on opposite sides of the president: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Caucus Chairman Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Energy: EPA moves to limit financial pressure on 'forever chemical' manufacturers | California sues Trump over water order| Buttigieg expands on climate plan California delivers swift suit after Trump orders water diversion States sue Trump administration at record pace MORE (Calif.).

Pelosi had previously announced last week she’d vote to override Obama’s veto, providing political cover for many other House Democrats to follow suit.

Four of the nay votes came from Armed Services members — Thornberry, Kline and Reps. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.).

Thornberry late last week came out in opposition of the measure, warning that it could open up U.S. military, intelligence and diplomatic personnel to retributive lawsuits in other nations.

While some Republican nays cited their military districts, others who represent heavy military areas, like Rep. Randy ForbesJames (Randy) Randy ForbesToo much ‘can do,’ not enough candor Trump makes little headway filling out Pentagon jobs Why there's only one choice for Trump's Navy secretary MORE (Va.), voted to override the veto.

While Thornberry’s warning was not enough to change the tide, several Republicans cited the concern as the driver behind their vote to sustain.

“While I sympathize deeply with the efforts of families of 9/11 victims to seek justice in the courts, I could not support this bill because of the serious risk that foreign nations will respond with efforts to prosecute U.S. service members and members of the intelligence community,” Nunes said in a statement.

“I voted to sustain the veto because I believe the legislation could increase risk for our troops, intelligence gatherers, and diplomats serving the U.S. around the world,” Kline said in a statement.

That concern is the same “unintended consequence” highlighted by both Republican and Democratic senators in their Wednesday afternoon letter to the bill’s co-authors, Sens. John CornynJohn CornynHillicon Valley: Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates | Barr vows to make surveillance reforms after watchdog report | DHS cyber chief focused on 2020 Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates Trump creates new headaches for GOP with top intelligence pick MORE (R-Texas) and Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response Democrats block two Senate abortion bills MORE (D-N.Y.).

It also echoes Obama’s criticisms of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).

The White House has campaigned fiercely against the bill, warning that it will undermine longstanding principles of sovereign immunity that protect U.S. government and officials without improving the U.S.’s ability to respond to terrorist attacks.

“Other countries could attempt to use JASTA to justify the creation of similar exceptions to immunity targeted against U.S policies and activities they oppose,” Obama wrote in a Tuesday letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans give Barr vote of confidence Democrats block two Senate abortion bills VA could lead way for nation on lower drug pricing MORE (R-Ky.) and Reid.

“The consequences of JASTA could be devastating to the Department of Defense and its service members — and there is no doubt that the consequences could be equally significant for our foreign affairs and intelligence communities.”

No lawmakers from New York or New Jersey voted “nay,” nor did any vulnerable Democrats.

Schumer, the legislation’s co-author, is expected to be the next Senate Democratic leader starting in 2017.