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Congressional Republicans and Democrats Clash on Including Covid-19 Business Liability Protections in Future Pandemic Relief Legislation

  • May 1, 2020

U.S. Capitol

Liability concerns in a post-coronavirus world are influencing congressional negotiations about the next pandemic relief package as states move forward on easing business restrictions and employers across the country consider plans to reopen.  (AP, April 28 and The Hill, May 1)

  • With the Senate scheduled to return to Washington on May 4, policymakers are staking their priorities about stimulus and other measures that may be included in the next round of Covid-19 related legislation.  The House announced this week they will delay their return until May 11 due to concerns about coronavirus in Washington, DC.

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA.) said in a joint statement today that any future stimulus bill must include liability protections for employers.  “Senate and House Republicans agree these protections will be absolutely essential to future discussions surrounding recovery legislation,” according to the statement.

  • McConnell on Tuesday referred to the protections as his "red line" during an interview with Fox News.  "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. (Fox interview, April 24)

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Wednesday said employees returning to work should have increased safety protections. “Especially now, we have every reason to protect our workers and our patients in all of this. So we would not be inclined to be supporting any immunity from liability,” Pelosi stated during a press briefing.  (National Review, April 29)

  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Tuesday said employers pushing workers to return to unsafe conditions during the pandemic should not receive protections.  He stated, “If an employer makes an employee do something that is untenable, shouldn’t an employee have some rights here?” (Bloomberg, April 28).

Negotiations on the next pandemic bill in Congress will intensify this month, as Democrats are expected to push for massive assistance to help state and local governments meet tax revenue shortfalls that pay for essential services.

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