Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Floor Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for the Veto Override Vote on “S. 2040, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act”

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, jr.
The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States constituted the deadliest foreign attack on American soil in our Nation’s history.

Their impact has been immeasurable as evidenced by the fact that we are still grappling with their cultural and policy implications.

And, 15 years later, their powerful emotional effect on Americans remains as strong as ever.

Those who lost loved ones or were injured as a result of this horrific attack deserve our deepest sympathy and our help.

And, it is in this vein that we consider whether to override the President’s veto of S. 2040, the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act,” which, among other things, amends the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 to create a new exception to the Act’s general grant of foreign sovereign immunity. 

The bill’s supporters present compelling and sympathetic arguments in favor of insuring that the 9/11 families have access to a well-deserved “day in court.”

In his veto message, however, the President raised a number of serious substantive concerns about the potential unintended consequences of this legislation.

First, the President stated that S. 2040 could undermine the effectiveness of our Nation’s national security and counter-terrorism efforts. 

For instance, other nations may become more reluctant to share sensitive intelligence in light of the greater risk that such information may be revealed in litigation.

Moreover, the President raised the concern that this legislation would effectively allow non-expert private litigants and courts, rather than national security and foreign policy experts, to determine key foreign and national security policy questions like which states are sponsors of terrorism.

Second, the President asserted that enactment of S. 2040 may lead to retaliation by other countries against the United States given the breadth of our interests and the expansive reach of our global activities.

While it seems likely at this juncture that S. 2040 will be enacted over the President’s veto, I remain hopeful that we can continue to work toward the enactment of subsequent legislation to address the President’s concerns.

I understand the moral imperative of enacting legislation in this matter, but I am sensitive to the seriousness of the concerns that the President raised.

I had expressed the hope during the Floor debate on this bill that Congress and the President could work together to find a better balance that would still enable 9/11 victims to seek justice while tempering the President’s concerns.

There is no doubt as to the passion that the bill’s supporters bring to advocating for the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, a passion that I share.

As legislators, however, we must be driven not only by understandable emotions, but by thoughtful consideration of the long-term interests of our country.  For this reason, the expected outcome of today’s vote should not be the end of this matter.

For the forgoing reasons, and those stated by the President, national security experts, international law scholars, and others, however, I must vote to sustain the President’s veto.

I reserve the balance of my time.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

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