- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 29, 2016

The White House blasted lawmakers Thursday for suffering “buyer’s remorse” in their first override of a veto by President Obama, after the top two Republican leaders said they’re prepared to rewrite the measure that allows victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. courts.

“It’s hard to know where to start,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest, who called the lawmakers’ concerns “a pretty classic case of rapid onset buyer’s remorse.”

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the measure could have unintended consequences, including exposure of U.S. soldiers to retaliatory lawsuits by foreign governments.

“I would like to think there’s a way we can fix so that our service members do not have legal problems overseas while still protecting the rights of the 9/11 victims,” Mr. Ryan told reporters Thursday, one day after the House voted 348-77 to override Mr. Obama’s veto.

Mr. McConnell said changes to the law are “worth further discussing,” saying he too was worried about unintended consequences of the measure.

As the fallout continued over the historic veto override, some lawmakers blamed Mr. Obama’s diminished influence on Capitol Hill for contributing to the problem.

“When you have a lame-duck president, his political power is on the decline,” said Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican, on C-SPAN. “I think this is a strong indication of the decline of any president in his last term, in the last months of his presidency. His political power is declining, and it’ll decline on out until Jan. 20.”

Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said the president didn’t contact him until this week, just before the House and Senate were gearing up for a veto override vote that clearly had momentum.

“That was a good example of the failure to communicate early about a piece of legislation that was obviously very popular,” Mr. McConnell said.

He said lawmakers were thinking mainly about the 9/11 families and didn’t focus enough on the consequences of the legislation.

“Because everyone was aware who the potential beneficiaries were, but nobody focused on the potential downside in terms of our international relationships. And I just think it was a ball dropped,” Mr. McConnell said. “I wish the president — and I hate to blame everything on him, and I don’t — but it would have been helpful had … we had a discussion about this much earlier than the last week.”

Mr. Obama called the veto override “basically a political vote.” Among its chief proponents is Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, although only one senator in either party, Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada, voted to uphold the veto.

Mr. Schumer said he was open to revisiting the legislation.

“I’m willing to look at any proposal they make, but not any that hurt the families,” he said.

But he also said he would oppose any move to narrow the measure so it would only apply to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“You know what that does? It tells the Saudis to go ahead and do it again, and we won’t punish you,” Mr. Schumer said.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, said he thought lawmakers could address problems with the law in the lame-duck session after the Nov. 8 election. He also criticized the White House, saying the administration rebuffed his efforts to find a compromise before the votes this week.

Mr. Earnest said Mr. Corker wasn’t telling the truth.

“I will make a suggestion to Sen. Corker that he get his story straight,” he said. “Senior White House officials and senior officials in the administration were in touch directly with Sen. Corker and his office about this specific legislation. That much is true.”

The White House slammed lawmakers who claimed they weren’t warned about the possible ramifications of the measure. “What’s true in elementary school is true in the United States Congress: Ignorance is no excuse,” Mr. Earnest said.

He noted that administration officials had been warning lawmakers of the consequences of the bill since April, and that several top former Bush administration officials also raised concerns with Congress.

Mr. Earnest called the veto override “an abject embarrassment.”

 

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