July 21, 2019 | 83° F

EDITORIAL: Feel-good-do-nothing JASTA bill

Congress shows its hypocrisy when it comes to 9/11


The United States Congress is reprehensible. Instead of working together to solve crises like the Zika virus or climate change, they’d rather waste precious time and taxpayer money investigating the Benghazi case. Instead of appointing a new judge to the incomplete Supreme Court, they would rather pass a disastrous bill that makes the U.S. vulnerable to prosecution from foreign nations. Congress has made minuscule progress at a snail's pace. And when members of Congress do decide to act, it turns out to be wreckage.

The Justice Against Sponsors for Terrorism Act (JASTA) passed last week and was one of the few bipartisan bills that both sides of the isle agreed upon. It would allow U.S. citizens to sue the Saudi Arabia government for damages related to the 9/11 terror attacks. President Barack Obama vetoed the bill, but the Senate voted 97-1 to override the veto, and the House of Representatives followed after with 388-77 override votes. Before ballots were cast, members of Congress already acknowledged that opening the door to lawsuits could present more problems for the Department of Defense and the Department of State who employ numerous personnel around the world. So why did they do it? To save their butts during the upcoming election cycle.

A Gallup Poll indicates that in 2016, 76 percent of the public disapproves of Congress, and passing this bill appeared to be a bogus attempt to fix their bad reputation at a time when a total of 469 seats in U.S. Congress are up for reelection on Nov. 8.

President Obama notes, “If you’re perceived as voting against 9/11 families right before an election, not surprisingly, that’s a hard vote for people to take. But it would have been the right thing to do.” Yes it’s hard to go against 9/11 families, but it only seems hard now when their Senate or House positions are on the line, so they went as far as to actively champion the faulty bill. They rarely ever do what is the right thing to do.

Last year, Congress had no problem obstinately blocking a bill, the James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which would reauthorize an expiring health care program for 9/11 first responders permanently and would also reauthorize the victim compensation fund for five years. Members of Congress are quick to hail 9/11 first responders, fire fighters or police officers, as heroes for their sacrifice on Sept. 11. They’re eager to take photos with those people to post on social media along with other posts like, “9/11 Never Forget.” Yet when the time came to remember the efforts of 9/11 responders who are currently suffering from numerous health issues related to Sept. 11, members of Congress apparently forgot and blocked a bill to help them.

First responders — often in wheelchairs or oxygen tanks — had to lobby dozens of times to get the health care they needed. First responders essentially had to grovel to get the assistance for cancer or a lost limb, so it’s difficult to believe that the JASTA bill was passed out of the goodness of the members of Senate and House’s hearts. JASTA was passed so members of Congress could look good, so then they can keep their positions and so they then can continue to get paid $174,000 to do nothing.

And yet the bill imploded on their faces. JASTA was not well received, and only a day after it was passed they realized the ramifications of their actions, having the audacity to blame President Obama for not explaining to them the bill that they created and he vetoed. It is truly a new low for Congress, but by the looks of their past actions, it wouldn’t be surprising if they can go even lower.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 148th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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