We’re Governed By Morons

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

Congress voted to override a presidential veto yesterday for the first time of the Obama presidency. President Obama vetoed a bill that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, but the truth is a little more complicated than that.

The president vetoed the bill because weakening the sovereign immunity of other nations also means weakening the sovereign immunity of the United States. For example, other nations could file lawsuits against American military service members or state officials serving overseas.

The Senate voted overwhelmingly by a margin of 97 to 1 to override the president's veto but, inexplicably, 28 of them also signed a letter expressing their concerns about the possible unintended consequences of the law.

Both House and Senate Republican leadership now say they're considering a "fix" for the law that they so desperately wanted to pass.

"I do think is worth further discussing," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters, acknowledging that there could be "potential consequences" of the "Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act" known as JASTA.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Congress might have to "fix" the legislation to protect U.S. servicemembers in particular.

Naturally, Republicans in Congress are blaming President Obama for the law's passage and its "potential consequences" even though he fucking vetoed it. He vetoed the bill and Congress acted to override that veto without even considering what they were doing.

To be clear, Senate Democrats are also responsible for this shitshow. The only Democratic senator who voted against the law was minority leader Harry Reid.

I am reminded of the early years of the president's first term when Senate Democrats joined Senate Republicans to block the closure of Gitmo. They participated in that for the same reasons they voted to override the president's veto this week. They're afraid of the election-year ads that would accuse them of voting against the victims of 9/11 just as they were afraid of the ads that would accuse them of being soft on terrorism.

I appreciate the gravity of the upcoming election and why they may have voted to pass the bill, but voting to override the president's veto was not necessary. Overriding the president's veto and then sharing your concerns about the consequences after the fact just makes you look like a fool.

  • muselet

    Juan Cole posted a piece today explaining the potential consequences of JASTA: “How the JASTA override on Saudi could Bite Americans in the Ass”. I think he understates the risks.

    And yeah, voting to override a veto but then worrying about what the bill would actually do is terrible governance.


    • Arthur Croft

      Republicans are most to blame…for basically anything.
      Other than the media that keeps legitimizing their endless stream of bullshit.

    • Dread_Pirate_Mathius

      Just to play devil’s advocate here..

      Why shouldn’t other countries be able to sue US officials when we behave criminally or injuriously?

      • muselet

        The short answer is that sovereign immunity makes international relations less of a free-for-all monkey knife fight.

        The long answer is, well, longer.