May 26, 2016
Remember that “historic” vote to lift the statutory ban on 9/11 families suing Saudi Arabia? Senators lined up to vote unanimously with the 9/11 families and to reject the threats of Saudi Arabia to wreck economic havoc on the United States. However, it was revealed this week that Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.added a small amendment to the bill that gave the Administration the right to bar such lawsuits. Since the Administration opposes the changing of the law, its position is quite clear. Now many are objecting that the Senate vote was misleading given the Schumer amendment.
The families believed that they were finally able to sue with the lifting of the restrictions under the JASTA. However, the new section gives the Justice and State departments the power to stay court action indefinitely. The Justice Department merely has to inform the judge that there are diplomatic discussions regarding the issue.
All they have to do is inform the judge hearing the case that the US government has engaged with Riyadh in diplomatic talks to resolve the issue. The “Stay of Actions Pending State Negotiations” was slipped into the bill at the last minute without any discussion. It requires only a certification that the United States is “engaged in good-faith discussions with the foreign-state defendant concerning the resolution of claims against the foreign state.”
With the change, Senators could vote for the law and stand up to the Saudis while quietly giving the Administration an easy way to again block the families.