Bipartisanship has become so rare in Washington that pundits risk forgetting how lousy it can be. In 1964, Democrats and Republicans came together to overwhelmingly pass the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which authorized Lyndon Johnson to use force in Vietnam. The Defense of Marriage Act, which in 1996 made gay marriage illegal under federal law, enjoyed broad bipartisan support too.
It’s worth remembering this when reading about the “unlikely coalition of liberal and conservative senators” including Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz (along with former Senator Hillary Clinton)—that supports the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. The legislation, which in January passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously, carves out an exception to a 1976 law that immunizes foreign governments from lawsuits in American courts. The exception would allow Americans injured in terrorist attacks on American soil to sue governments that support terrorism. What that really means, given that 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi, and some believe elements of the Saudi government aided the attack, is that victims of September 11 could sue Saudi Arabia.
American terror victims against billionaire Arab princes who won’t let their wives drive. For American politicians, it’s not a hard call. And there are reasons to suspect that at least some in the Saudi regime were complicit in the September 11 attacks. The 9/11 Commission found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.” But, as The New York Times has noted, that leaves open the possibility that lower-level officials played a role. Last year, alleged “20th hijacker” Zacarias Moussaoui testified that Saudi officials gave al-Qaeda millions of dollars in the years before the attack. (The Saudi government denied the charges).