WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan is reserving judgment on bipartisan legislation to allow the families of Sept. 11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia for any role that elements of Saudi regime may have played in the attack.
Ryan said Tuesday that lawmakers need to review the bill “to make sure that we’re not making mistakes with our allies.” President Barack Obama strongly opposes the legislation. Obama is traveling to Saudi Arabia Wednesday.
“The White House is opposed to it. It’s received some opposition here. We’re going to let these things work the process,” Ryan said. He noted that the White House is sure to promise a veto and “we’ll see where it goes from there.”
The White House says it opposes the bill because it could expose Americans overseas to legal risk.
“If we open up the possibility that individuals in the United States can routinely start suing other governments, then we are also opening up the United States to being continually sued by individuals in other countries,” Obama said in an interview with CBS News.
Obama’s visit promises to address a host of issues concerning the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, a key ally in fighting terrorism and bolstering stability in the region. The Saudis have long pushed, with no success, for more aggressive U.S. military action to counter Iran in Syria and Iraq.
Ryan said the legislation on Sept. 11 victims did not come up when he met with Saudi officials on a trip to the Middle East.
Senior senators in both parties, such as Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas and Charles Schumer of New York, support the legislation. Schumer broke with Obama on last year’s nuclear weapons agreement with Iran, which was also strongly opposed by Republicans.
AP Diplomatic Writer Matt Lee contributed to this report.