01:49 - Source: CNN
Obama to veto controversial 9/11 bill

Story highlights

President Barack Obama had vetoed the bill

It initially won overwhelming support in Congress

Washington CNN  — 

The Senate will vote Wednesday to override President Barack Obama’s veto of a bill to give victims and families of the 9/11 terrorist attacks the legal right to sue Saudi Arabia for any purported role in the plot, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday.

The measure will need a two-thirds vote of the chamber to succeed – which is expected – before going to the House for a similar override vote later this week.

It would be the first time in Obama’s nearly eight years in office that one of his vetoes will be overturned.

The President opposes the bill because he says it could open the door to lawsuits against the US for actions taken by military service members, diplomats and others.

Obama expressed sympathy for the 9/11 families in his veto message Friday, but said he vetoed the bill because the law would hurt the effectiveness of the administration’s action against terrorism by taking questions of foreign states’ involvement in terrorism “out of the hands of national security and foreign policy professionals and placing them in the hands of private litigants and courts.”

In recent days, several senators who allowed the bill to pass without objection expressed misgivings for their decisions and said they wanted to find a way to address the White House’s concerns about sovereign immunity.

“I have tremendous empathy for the victims,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee said two weeks ago. “At the same time I have concerns about the precedent this bill will set and what it may mean to American service men and women and others. Let’s face it – our alleged drone attacks have killed civilians in Pakistan. Our alleged drone attacks have killed civilians in Afghanistan. And I think once you start opening the door for these types of activities it can be very problematic.”

Despite those second thoughts, there was never much traction among lawmakers to prevent the override.

Heavy lobbying by the Saudi government, which opposed the bill, was met by a more powerful force – the emotional appeal of the 9/11 families who fanned out on Capitol Hill in recent weeks to prevent the bill from stalling.

Once both chambers override the veto, the bill becomes law regardless of Obama’s opposition.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.