House Passes Saudi 9/11 Bill, Rep. Pete King Takes Victory Lap
Rep. Pete King took a victory lap Friday as the House passed a bill requiring allowing 9/11 victims and their families to sue the Saudi Arabian government.
The House passed the measure by overwhelming margin on a voice vote, confirming a similar Senate vote in May.
"It was tough building up support," King, a New York Republican, told Newsmax.
King picked up the legislation on behalf of 9/11 victims' families in 2012 after the defeat of its original sponsor, Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif.
"The Saudi government employs many former government officials and they tried to stop [the bill] at every turn," he said.
The bill goes to President Obama's desk for signature.
The Obama administration has vigorously opposed the bill and already has signaled a veto is coming. But some question whether the president will veto a bill that will likely be overridden by Congress.
It took nearly 15 years after the worst assault on U.S. soil by a foreign aggressor.
Since then 9/11 families and other groups have complained of Saudi involvement in the attacks — 15 of the 19 perpetrators were Saudi nationals – and have argued for the right to sue and legally explore the involvement of this foreign power.
The bill amends a 1976 law that grants foreign states immunity from lawsuits in the U.S.
The new law provides that Americans can sue if any nation was directly involved in terror attacks against U.S. nationals.
King said the bill, though enjoying broad Congressional support, had faced obstacles from Washington insiders.
King recalled how word went out in the House earlier this year that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., opposed the bill.
"But it wasn't true—not at all," King said.
"The word going out was that he was opposed because he favors caps on the outcomes of lawsuits. Yes, he favors caps but only on taxpayer dollars in lawsuits. These suits seek Saudi Arabian money and he doesn't care how much that comes to."
Goodlatte is, in King's eyes, "honest and straightforward."
The September 11, 2001, attacks killed 2,966 people, and injured more than 6,000. Of those killed, the majority — 2,606 — died in New York's World Trade Center and the surrounding area.
For King, this fight has been personal. He says he knew about 150 of the victims.
King also credited House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy with moving the legislation to the vote Friday morning.
As lawmakers returned from their recess on the morning after Labor Day. King recalled, there were rumors that some Democrats might object to bill.
Given that the vote was scheduled on the basis of unanimous consent, he explained, this would have been fatal to the outcome.
But late Wednesday, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer announced that the Democrats would not object, and would go along with the vote Friday, King said.
The vote came shortly on the same day members of Congress met on the Capitol steps and sing "God Bless America"—a reenactment of the show of unity on Capitol Hill days after 9/11.
Speaking of the families of victims and how much his bill meant to them, King called the bill's passage "gratifying."
"It's been a long time coming," he said.