Teh stupid in Congress, explained in Vox
Jennifer Williams reports in Vox:
The Senate on Wednesday voted 97-1 to override President Obama’s veto of a controversial bill, known as the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia for its alleged financial support of al-Qaeda.
And then things got weird.
Almost immediately after the vote, 28 senators who had just voted for the bill sent a letter to the bill’s Senate sponsors, Republican John Cornyn of Texas and Democrat Charles Schumer of New York, saying they were concerned about the “potential unintended consequences that may result from this legislation for the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
The Obama administration has long argued that the bill could end up putting the United States at risk of being similarly prosecuted in foreign courts by undermining a long-standing tradition in foreign relations known as “sovereign immunity.” They made this argument when the bill was first up for a vote back in May and promised to veto it if it passed. Then, when it did pass, Obama vetoed it, citing once again his argument for why he thought the bill was a bad idea.
When Congress announced it would hold a vote to override the veto, Obama wrote a letterto Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, yet again making the case against the bill. But Congress voted to override the veto anyway — the first time they’d ever done so in Obama’s entire presidency.
It was only after that final vote on Wednesday to override the veto that Congress apparently figured out that — uh oh! — there might be some negative consequences to the bill they had just voted into law.
Their excuse for why they’d passed this potentially harmful bill? The Obama administration never told them it was a bad idea.
“Nobody really had focused on the potential downside in terms of our international relationships,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, said. “I think it was just a ball dropped.”
Never mind the fact that the Obama administration most definitely did explain, again and again, why they thought the bill was a bad idea, the fact is that it’s Congress’s job to understand the potential impact of any legislation they pass.
As White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest aptly put it, “what’s true in elementary school is true in the United States Congress, ignorance is not an excuse, particularly when it comes to our national security and the safety and security of our diplomats and our service members.”
Regardless, Congress still seems a little confused about all of this. Luckily, we have an explainer that should clear everything up for them — and you. Here, then, is the Obama administration’s case against the JASTA bill, and why top national security experts think he’s right. . .