(Senate - April 19, 2016)

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[Congressional Record Volume 162, Number 60 (Tuesday, April 19, 2016)]
[Pages S2140-S2141]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  Mr. CORNYN. Madam President, I will spend a few minutes talking about 
a piece of legislation that is bipartisan and deserves this Chamber's 
  Last year, around the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I reintroduced 
the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA. This bill 
makes minor adjustments to our laws to help Americans who are attacked 
on U.S. soil get justice from those who sponsored and facilitated that 
terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
  When the Judiciary Committee considered this bill earlier this year, 
it was reported out without objection. I think the reasons for that are 
pretty clear. We should use every means available to prevent the 
funding of terrorism, and the victims of terrorism in our country 
should be able to seek justice from people who do fund that terrorist 
attack. We have to maintain our diligence to hold those who sponsor 
terrorism accountable, particularly on our own soil, and we must 
leverage all of our resources--or as many as possible--to shut off the 
funding sources for terrorists. Using civil liability to do so has been 
Federal policy for decades, and JASTA would strengthen that.
  It is my hope that this legislation will serve as a defective 
deterrent and will make foreign governments think twice before sending 
money to terrorist groups who target our homeland. Our country 
confronts new and expanding terror networks that are focused on 
targeting our citizens, and we need to do everything we can to stop it, 
including passing this legislation.
  JASTA is also important because it would help the victims of the 9/11 
attacks achieve closure from that horrific tragedy.
  I mentioned that this is a bipartisan bill, and I am glad to 
introduce it with my colleague Chuck Schumer of New York. But 
unfortunately the President doesn't seem to share these bipartisan 
concerns about helping the victims of terrorism or deterring others 
from funding and facilitating it in the future. Unfortunately, the 
administration has worked to undercut progress of this legislation at 
every turn.
  Yesterday the White House insisted that the President does not oppose 
JASTA on behalf of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia even though the 
administration has made that argument in private. In light of his 
upcoming trip there this week, it appears that the Obama administration 
is pulling out all the stops to keep this bill from moving forward 
before the President's visit to Riydah. I wish the President and his 
aides would spend as much time and energy working with us in a 
bipartisan manner as they have working against us trying to prevent 
victims of terrorism from receiving the justice they deserve.
  I was glad to see the President abandon an argument that I always 
found strange, especially coming from him. He didn't seem to care that 
much about our relationship with Saudi Arabia when he ran through his 
misguided nuclear deal with Iran, running roughshod over serious 
concerns raised by the Kingdom. He didn't seem to care much about our 
relationship with Saudi Arabia when he contended that they should learn 
to ``share the neighborhood with its mortal enemy Iran.'' In a very 
real way, the President's opposition to this bill looked like it was 
asking the victims of 9/11 and their families to pay some of the 
political price for the President's mishandling of our relationship 
with Saudi Arabia.
  Well, yesterday the White House claimed it opposed the bill because 
it undermined the principle of sovereign immunity. In the past, the 
President said U.S. citizens could sue foreign governments and the 
United States would get sued abroad. Now, sovereign immunity is an 
important principle to be sure, but the fact is, the White House is 
misrepresenting the law. We have had statutory exemptions to this 
immunity for years for business conduct, torts, and many things, 
including terrorism. We already had these exceptions in the law, and 
that has been the law for decades. The only real change is allowing 
victims of terrorist attacks on the homeland to sue even if the 
defendant is not designated by the State Department as a state sponsor 
of terrorism. That is right. All this would do would be to allow 
victims of terrorist attacks on our homeland to sue even if the sponsor 
of the terrorist activity was not a State Department designated state 
sponsor of terrorism. This is a narrow piece of legislation, and it 
would not upend traditional principles of sovereignty.
  Yesterday a White House spokesman claimed that JASTA would lead to 
liability for U.S. humanitarian aid work. That is just false. I am 
confident that Senator Schumer and I can make that abundantly clear to 
anybody who shares that misconception.
  The President's attempt so far to derail this legislation that would 
help the victims of 9/11 pursue justice under the law is completely 
unacceptable. Unfortunately, this shouldn't be a surprise. The 
President has steadfastly refused to declassify and release 28 pages of 
the ``9/11 Commission Report'' that pertain to allegations of Saudi 
Arabia's support for the 9/11 terrorists. According to some news 
reports, President Obama has vowed several times to release this 
information, but he hasn't followed through on that promise yet. His 
actions to shield the Saudi Government instead of advocating on behalf 
of his own citizens rings much louder than his words. That doesn't 
sound to me like the most transparent administration in American 
history, which is what the President promised the Nation at his 

  The good news is that there is bipartisan support in this Chamber for 
those who will stand up for these victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks 
and hold the people responsible accountable. I look forward to 
continuing to work with our colleagues to get this critical legislation 
  The President has his prerogatives under the Constitution. If he 
wants to veto legislation passed by the Congress on a strong bipartisan 
vote, he can do that, but 67 Senators and two-thirds of the House can 
override a Presidential veto. That is in the Constitution too. So the 
President needs to step up, instead of trying to kill this legislation 
by private conversations in the Senate. The Senate needs to do its 
work: Pass this bipartisan legislation, help the victims of the 9/11 
terrorist attacks, and hold those who fund and facilitate terrorist 
attacks responsible. If the President wants to get in the way, he can 
veto the legislation, and we can override that veto. That is the way 
the Constitution works.

[[Page S2141]]

  Madam President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oregon.