As The Hill reports, there’s a fresh battle brewing over the next round of coronavirus economic stimulus legislation, and the Democratic-controlled House under Speaker Nancy Pelosi is facing off against Mitch McConnell to protect the legal rights of workers as businesses reopen:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that Democrats will not support the business liability protections that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is requesting to appear in the next CARES Act.
The Speaker said during her press briefing that both she and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have said their priority is to protect workers and patients, not businesses…
“My red line going forward on this bill is we need to provide protection, litigation protection, for those who have been on the front lines. … We can’t pass another bill unless we have liability protection,” McConnell said during an interview on Fox News Tuesday.
“Let me make it perfectly clear, the Senate is not interested in passing a bill that does not have liability protection,” he added.
After McConnell caught a wave of blowback for suggesting that bankruptcy for states might be preferable to further infusions of federal aid during the pandemic, which Sen. Cory Gardner still hasn’t been asked to comment on, he’s since conceded that further aid is going to be necessary to offset massive budget shortfalls like the devastating $3 billion decline Colorado is now forecasting for the current year. But what McConnell is asking for in return appears to be its own dealbreaker, Politico reports:
“We probably will do another bill. What I’m saying is it won’t just be about money. It will be about other things that we think are important in the aftermath of this pandemic. And at the top of my list is liability protections for the brave people who have been manning the front lines during this and the brave people who will be opening their businesses fearful that they will be sued,” McConnell said on Monday.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has introduced a bill that would shield front-line health care workers from some lawsuits.
Schumer said he didn’t understand exactly what McConnell was proposing but urged McConnell to “stop putting barriers in the way” of more money for local governments. McConnell and the Trump administration fought the inclusion of $150 billion in state and local aid on last week’s $484 billion coronavirus bill, the fourth bill responding to the crisis.
“Is he saying if an owner tells a worker they have to work next to somebody who might have coronavirus, without a mask or PPE, that that owner wouldn’t be liable? That make[s] no sense,” Schumer said. [Pols emphasis]
Specific liability protections for health care workers, which is what Sen. Ben Sasse has proposed, are one thing. But McConnell’s conflation of a more defensible limited liability exemption for health care workers with any business being permitted to force employees into danger while shielded from legal responsibility is outrageously misleading. It’s bad enough that President Donald Trump just ordered meat packing plants to stay open with or without proper safeguards for the workers, by Trump’s own admission an order to resolve “liability problems” for meat producers.
If Mitch McConnell gets his way, we’re all the economy’s sacrificial lambs.