Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) signaled on Friday that they will not support a fifth coronavirus bill unless it provides liability protections for employers, safeguarding them from lawsuits from people claiming they became infected at their business.
“As the nation continues fighting this pandemic and parts of our economy begin to emerge from shutdown, Senate and House Republicans are united in our demand that health care workers, small businesses, and other Americans on the front lines of this fight must receive strong protections from frivolous lawsuits,” McConnell and McCarthy said in a joint statement.
“Senate and House Republicans agree these protections will be absolutely essential to future discussions surrounding recovery legislation,” they added.
The demand that liability protections be included in the “phase four” bill, which would actually be the fifth piece of coronavirus legislation passed by Congress, comes as the business community is pressuring the White House and Congress to help shield them from lawsuits as companies shuttered by the coronavirus begin to reopen.
Legal experts say businesses could face a wide range of lawsuits related to the coronavirus, most likely from customers who were infected with the virus.
Democrats have appeared skeptical of the GOP push, warning that they will not support any language that would weaken protections for workers.
“We don’t need any prescription from anybody about mythology or just excuses not to do the job. It’s really sad. It’s disgraceful because there is such tremendous need,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) told reporters earlier this week.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told PBS on Tuesday that he had not seen McConnell’s proposal but that “if it’s going to help big CEOs, but not the workers, or hurt the workers, that’s not going to happen.”
But GOP lawmakers have warned that without additional protections they believe business owners will be too fearful of litigation to reopen.
McConnell, during an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, called the extra protections his “red line.”
“Let me make it perfectly clear, the Senate is not interested in passing a bill that does not have liability protection. … What I’m saying is we have a red line on liability. It won’t pass the Senate without it,” he added.