WASHINGTON — Members of Congress — including many Texans — delivered Wednesday what might be the largest legislative blow that President Obama’s administration has received.
Both the U.S. Senate and the House voted to override the president’s veto of previously passed legislation that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi Arabian government.
It was the first time that either chamber had voted to override a presidential veto during the Obama years. Congress can overrule the president’s will with the support of two-thirds of each chamber.
In the Senate, members voted 97-1 against the presidential veto. On the House side, the tally was 348-77.
John Cornyn, the second-ranking Senate Republican, led the override charge in his chamber. His colleague, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, voted in line with Cornyn.
“I applaud my colleagues for joining together and with the American people to stand against President Obama’s attempt to deprive terror victims from receiving full recourse under the law,” Cruz said in a statement.
The president found no relief on the House side later in the day. But the split in the Texas delegation did not fall directly along party lines.
For the most part, Texans backed the override. In all, 28 of the 36 Texas members of the U.S. House — 21 Republicans and seven Democrats — supported overruling Obama.
But seven Texans voted against the measure, including several high-profile Republicans.
U.S. House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, was a chief opponent of the legislation, citing security concerns.
U.S. House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Dallas, and U.S. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Midland, also opposed the legislation.
Four Democrats also opposed the legislation: U.S. Reps. Rubén Hinojosa of Edinburg, Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas, Beto O’Rourke of El Paso and Marc Veasey of Fort Worth.
U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, who is currently battling leukemia, did not vote.
The vote was a complicated one.
Defying the wishes of families of 9/11 victims’ families is an unsavory political stance, and the House initially voted on the measure on the Friday before the 15th anniversary of the 2001 attacks.
Those advocates charged that if the Saudi hands were clean, the government should have nothing to fear, according to various reports.
The Saudis, however, threatened the U.S. economically last spring if such a measure passed. But the larger concern of the Obama administration was a fear that the new law could boomerang and legally imperil American officials working overseas.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday that the Senate action is “the single most embarrassing thing this United States Senate has done” in decades.
“Ultimately these senators are going to have to answer their own conscience and their constituents as they account for their actions today,” Earnest said, according to The Washington Post. “To have members of the United States Senate only recently informed of the negative impact of this bill on our service members and our diplomats is in itself embarrassing.”
A Cornyn spokesman, Drew Brandewie, tweeted a curt response to Earnest’s “embarrassing” comment: “It is,” referring to how Obama’s veto was so resoundingly rebuked by the Senate.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2016/09/28/texans-congress-help-override-obama-veto-911-bill/.