Our Opinion: Congress acts! — then gets override remorse


The failure of Congress to act on important issues like the Zika virus and a Supreme Court vacancy is infuriating. But the nation saw last week that there are times when it is preferable that Congress do nothing.

Last Wednesday, on a strongly bipartisan vote, The House and Senate overrode President Obama's veto of a bill allowing the families of victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, to sue Saudia Arabia for its alleged backing of the attackers. It was the first time Congress had overrode a veto by the president in his two terms.

A day later, Republican leaders of the House and Senate contracted override remorse and declared the bill would have to be "fixed." Why pass a flawed bill? Apparently, like so many things, that was President Obama's fault.

This was a difficult bill for legislators to oppose because everyone is sympathetic to the families who lost loved ones that terrible day. Fifteen of the 19 airplane hijackers were Saudis and Saudia Arabia, an ostensible U.S. ally, has done little or nothing about the breeding of terrorism on its soil.

But as the president warned repeatedly in recent weeks, the law could open the door to suits brought against the U.S. by foreign countries, some of which could be terrorist nations. Mr. Obama also pointed out that the law could encourage foreign nations to charge U.S. soldiers stationed in their land with crimes.

The danger of the latter unintended consequence was echoed Thursday by, of all people, Senate President Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan. Then why encourage a veto of the bill if it was flawed? The Republican leaders complained to the media that the president didn't make a strong enough case for his veto. In sum, the leaders blamed President Obama for vetoing a bill he knew was flawed, and the pair then encouraged Congress to override the veto even though they knew the bill was flawed.

Congress has essentially surrendered its foreign policy responsibilities during the president's two terms, preferring to second-guess his actions. While this is cowardly, after watching Congress blunder into foreign policy with an ill-considered law, maybe the nation is better off with its legislators on the sidelines.


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