By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation by voice vote on Friday that would allow the families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to sue Saudi Arabia’s government for damages, despite the White House’s threat to veto the measure.
The U.S. Senate passed the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act,” or JASTA, unanimously in May. Opponents of the bill said it could strain relations with Saudi Arabia and lead to retaliatory laws targeting U.S. citizens or corporations in other countries.
The vote’s timing was symbolic, passing two days before the 15th anniversary of the hijacked-plane attacks on New York and Washington. Its passage was greeted with cheers and applause in the House chamber.
The White House on Friday reiterated that President Barack Obama would veto the bill.
If Obama carries out his veto threat and the required two-thirds of both the Republican-majority House and Senate still support the bill, it would be the first time since Obama’s presidency began in 2009 that Congress had overridden a veto.
The House passed the measure by voice, without recorded individual votes, which is not technically considered unanimous. That could make it easier for Obama’s fellow Democrats to uphold his veto later without officially changing their positions.
(Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner and Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Grant McCool)