Obama Facepalm
Credit: Pete Souza/Flickr

This is one of those days when I really wish the American people paid attention to Congress.

Last May, the Senate passed a bill that would allow the families of victims of the 9/11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia. The House passed it on September 9th. We all know that everyone in this country wants to do anything they can to support these families. But all along, President Obama has said why this bill wasn’t a good idea and has been clear that he would veto it.

On the day the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act passed the House, here is how Haroun Demirjian described the President’s concerns:

But bill supporters are bracing for a veto fight with the White House, which argues the bill could harm the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia and establish a legal precedent that jeopardizes American officials overseas.

Three days later, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said this in response to a question during his daily briefing about a potential veto.

“The way this bill is currently written exposes the U.S. … to significant risks in courts across the world,” Earnest added, repeating his boss’s rationale for his opposition to the measure. “The President believes that it’s important to look out for our country, our service members and our diplomats and allowing this bill to come into law would increase the risk that they face,” Earnest added.

On September 23rd, when President Obama did, in fact, veto the bill, here is part of what he wrote:

Enactment of JASTA could encourage foreign governments to act reciprocally and allow their domestic courts to exercise jurisdiction over the United States or U.S. officials — including our men and women in uniform — for allegedly causing injuries overseas via U.S. support to third parties. This could lead to suits against the United States or U.S. officials for actions taken by members of an armed group that received U.S. assistance, misuse of U.S. military equipment by foreign forces, or abuses committed by police units that received U.S. training, even if the allegations at issue ultimately would be without merit.

This week Congress acted to over-ride the President’s veto.

And then something happened. Apparently members of Congress must have heard from people in the U.S. diplomatic corp and military on their concerns about how this bill opens them up to lawsuits in their service abroad. All of the sudden, Congress is backtracking and trying to figure out how they can fix the legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that a new law allowing U.S. victims of terrorism to sue foreign governments may have “unintended ramifications,” despite Congress’s overwhelming vote this week to defy President Barack Obama’s veto of the legislation.

Though Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act was easily overridden, many senators are seeking changes to the law later this year, particularly after gauging any international reaction.

But according to McConnell, the fault doesn’t necessarily lie with members of Congress who jumped on a bandwagon to support a sympathetic group of people during an election year. Nah…its Obama’s fault.

McConnell’s comments echoed complaints from Republicans and Democrats who said the White House did little to engage members of Congress with their concerns.

“Everybody was aware of who the potential beneficiaries were but no one had really focused on the potential downside in terms of our international relationships. And I think it was just a ball dropped,” McConnell said. “I hate to blame everything on him and I don’t, [but] it would have been helpful if we had a discussion about this much earlier than the last week.”

Yeah…so it’s the fault of that “tyrant” in the White House who didn’t do enough hand-holding to stop them from doing something stupid – even though he warned them over and over again. That’s McConnell’s excuse.

If American voters paid any attention to what actually goes on in Congress, this kind of thing would give them a pretty good idea of exactly why that branch of our federal government is such a basket case.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.