Senators from both parties made a colossal mistake last week in overriding President Obama’s veto of a bill titled, “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act” (JASTA). It was the first override of an Obama veto during his presidency, passing by a staggering 97-to-1 margin.
Amid the mayhem of the presidential campaign, the story went almost entirely unnoticed, but it shouldn’t have been. The override vote was possibly the dumbest move by Congress since the actual passage of the legislation which allows the families and victims of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to sue Saudi Arabia for damages.
Consider this: if Americans are allowed to sue Saudi Arabia, then other nations can sue the United States government, which includes the military and its personnel. That means anytime a drone hits a target with collateral damage, the families of the people killed — whether collateral or not — can sue the pilot of the drone, as well as the pilot’s branch of service.
Worse, back in April, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, pledged to sell nearly $750 billion in U.S. assets should the bill pass. This includes treasury securities and other assets that would certainly hurt the Kingdom as well as sending the American economy into a death spiral.
But, of course, members of Congress were too willing to pander to 9/11 families, risking a long list of repercussions, while also handing over American foreign policy and Middle East relations to lawyers. Bizarre, given the anti-tort Republicans who helped introduce and pass the bill. Naturally, it’d be poisonous for any senators or congresspersons to vote against 9/11 families, so it moved forward anyway. But that’s not the only reason.
It turns out, Congress was completely unaware of these negative consequences. After overriding Obama’s veto, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell blamed Obama for not explaining to them the stakes of enacting the bill. Yes, really. McConnell blamed Obama for the passage of a bill that Obama literally tried to kill with a veto pen and which Congress overrode.
“Because everyone was aware who the potential beneficiaries were, but nobody focused on the potential downside in terms of our international relationships. And I just think it was a ball dropped,” McConnell said. “I wish the President — and I hate to blame everything on him and I don’t — but it would have been helpful had…we had a discussion about this much earlier than the last week.”
97 senators, in unison, dropped the ball, and it was Obama who wasn’t helpful enough — explaining, presumably, why the bill was a big, fat mistake. Unforgivable. So, the president is supposed to babysit the U.S. Senate and explain its own legislative blunders to them? Is this remedial politics? No wonder Congress’s approval rating is lower than hair lice and colonoscopies.
Oh, and guess what? The president absolutely explained the legislation to Congress and his reasoning behind the veto. Here it is. Seriously, it’s not Obama’s fault that members of Congress apparently can’t read. And the ones who can would rather pander and then blame the president for their own botched votes.
Amazingly, the next step is to try to fix the bill. Congress fucked up so badly that it has to pass a series of fixes to the legislation, likely undermining the entire purpose of the bill.
The other night on Real Time with Bill Maher, conservative Trump supporter Steven Moore said that voters are tired of establishment politicians, hence their support for Trump. If this was a real thing and not just an excuse for supporting a screeching circus peanut, then Republicans across the country would be lining up to vote out every congressional incumbent. They’re not, though, even though there’s more than enough reasons to do so — the completely fumbled JASTA affair being the latest and most treacherous example.