| WASHINGTON, Sept 29
WASHINGTON, Sept 29 The chairman of the U.S.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee said on Thursday he had tried
to find a compromise before Congress' rare override of a
presidential veto of a bill that allows relatives of Sept. 11
victims to sue Saudi Arabia.
Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said he had
spoken twice during the weekend with Secretary of State John
Kerry, who had opposed the "Justice Against Supports of
Terrorism Act" known as JASTA.
Corker said he and Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, the
committee's ranking Democrat, had tried to set up a meeting with
White House officials and senators who supported the bill to
find a compromise that would ease concerns that the legislation
could threaten U.S. diplomatic interests.
"We agreed the best way to resolve this was to have a
meeting... and see if another option could be developed," Corker
said at the start of a committee hearing on Syria.
Congress on Wednesday overwhelmingly rejected President
Barack Obama's veto of the legislation, the first veto override
of his eight-year-long presidency.
The law grants an exception to the legal principle of
sovereign immunity in cases of terrorism on U.S. soil, clearing
the way for lawsuits seeking damages from the Saudi government.
Riyadh has denied longstanding suspicions that it backed the
hijackers who attacked the United States in 2001. Fifteen of the
19 hijackers were Saudi nationals.
The White House reacted angrily to the override. Obama said
on CNN that he thought lawmakers had been afraid to take a
"hard" vote so close to the Nov. 8 election. A White House
spokesman said the 97-1 vote to override in the Senate was the
"most embarrassing" thing the Senate had done in decades.
Corker rejected that criticism, saying that White House
officials had declined a meeting.
"The outburst yesterday from the White House over what
happened is remarkable when they wouldn't even sit down to meet
with the Secretary of State and us to try and create a solution
to a problem that they felt was real," he said.
White House officials did not have immediate comment on
Corker and Cardin circulated a letter signed by at least 28
senators, asking JASTA's two Senate sponsors, Republican John
Cornyn of Texas and Democrat Charles Schumer of New York, to
work with them in the future to address potential consequences
of the bill for national security.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; additional reporting by
Roberta Rampton, editing by Grant McCool)