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Menendez, Schumer Announce Breakthrough in Negotiations on Legislation to Protect Victims of Terrorism and Improve Relations With Sudan

WASHINGTON – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued the following statement announcing they have reached an agreement with the Trump administration to include historic legislation to protect victims of terrorism and restore Sudan’s immunity from terror-related lawsuits as part of the end of year omnibus spending package being voted on by Congress. Passage of the Senators’ Sudan Claims Resolution Act (SCRA) follows the Trump administration’s recent removal of Sudan from the state sponsors of terrorism list, and both elements are key to the United States’ normalization of relations with Sudan and to bolstering Sudan’s fragile political and economic outlook.

“We are deeply gratified that the Sudan Claims Resolution Act will be adopted as part of the omnibus appropriations act being passed this week. The SCRA, which is based on the proposal we offered the White House earlier this month, is a hard-fought victory that accomplishes four crucial objectives: it fully preserves and protects the legal claims of 9/11 families – claims the Trump administration attempted to eliminate; it restores Sudan’s sovereign immunity; it unlocks and ensures equal compensation for and treatment of all U.S. citizen victims and families of the East Africa Embassy bombings; and advances the interests of victims of terrorism more broadly.

 “As we said throughout months of intense negotiations, the United States has critical strategic and national security interests in supporting Sudan’s fragile transition to democracy.  However, that support should not and will not come at the expense of protecting the rights of terrorism victims, and the rights of all American citizens, regardless of nation of origin. 

“We are proud we were ultimately able to work on a commonsense compromise, free of poison pills, that addresses the grave shortcomings in the Trump administration’s original deal with Sudan.  Now that the state sponsor of terrorism designation for Sudan has been lifted, and victims’ claims can be responsibly resolved, we look forward to working with the incoming Biden administration to develop a plan to further advance those critical national security, humanitarian and development goals.”

A Copy of the Sudan Claims Resolution Act (SCRA) can be found HERE. Key accomplishments of the SCRA include: 

  • Recognition by Congress that the United States needs to support Sudan’s democratic transition, particularly in light of the country’s dire economic situation.
  • Restoration of Sudan’s sovereign immunity in the United States with the exception of the 9/11 multi-district litigation pending in federal court.
  • Fully preserving and protecting the rights of 9/11 victims and families by allowing the 9/11 multi-district litigation to continue unharmed.
  • Reflecting Congress’ support for 9/11victims and families through a Sense of Congress that the State Department and Department of Justice should not get involved in the 9/11 litigation in any manner that would disadvantage victims of terrorism.
  • Extending the life of the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund (USVSSTF) from 2030 to 2039.
  • Ensuring that claimants with judgments against Sudan are allowed to recover from the USVSSTF.
  • Providing for a GAO study to determine the amount of a “catch-up payment” for widows and children of 9/11 victims who were inexplicably excluded from prior distributions of the USVSSTF. 
  • Securing $150,000,000 for dozens of naturalized U.S. citizen victims and family members of the East Africa Embassy bombings, which was necessary because the Trump administration’s deal with Sudan compensated naturalized U.S. citizen terrorism victims at a rate that was approximately 90 percent less than natural-born U.S. citizens.
  • Preserving the separation of powers and protecting Congress’ role under the U.S. Constitution through findings and a Sense of Congress concerning treaty and executive agreement practice.