The U.S. Senate approved legislation Tuesday that would allow the survivors and relatives of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States to sue Saudi Arabia's government for damages.
Riyadh has denied any involvement in the attacks, the worst terrorism ever in the U.S., but 15 of the 19 airline hijackers who commandeered four passenger jets to carry out assaults in New York and Washington were later identified as Saudis.
The legislation, approved on a voice vote, would give victims' families the right to sue Saudi Arabia for damages for any role it played in the attack. Saudi Arabia, in return, has threatened to pull billions of dollars from the U.S. economy if the measure becomes law.
The legislation still must approved by the House of Representatives, and then signed by President Barack Obama.
The president has threatened to veto the measure if it clears the House, saying it would expose Americans overseas to legal risks.
After Senate passage of the legislation, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, "Given the concerns that we have expressed, it's difficult to imagine the president signing this legislation."
The measure is winding through Congress as Obama considers whether to make public 28 pages of classified material, contained in the official government investigation report of the attack, that touches on possible Saudi involvement.