Democratic Rep. Katie Porter attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Twitter for holding up COVID-19 stimulus negotiations over corporate liability protections.
The Republican-backed issue — which would protect businesses from litigation from employees who get coronavirus — enables “the worst of the worst examples of disregard for human life,” Porter wrote.
Porter accused McConnell of being the sole GOP figure left insisting on the measure, although he appeared to soften on it on Tuesday.
Rep. Katie Porter launched a blistering attack on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, slamming his insistence on corporate protections from liability in COVID-19 stimulus negotiations.
“Everyone at the negotiating table – including Senate Rs – has agreed to a compromise. Except one,” the congresswoman wrote in a Twitter thread, which has as of Wednesday been shared more than 50,000 times.
“Mitch McConnell is refusing to bring it to the floor unless it wipes away all COVID-related lawsuits filed that ‘allege injury or death’ due to corporate negligence,” she wrote.
“These lawsuits represent the worst of the worst examples of disregard for human life,” she added.
You can click on the tweet below to read Porter’s full thread.
At his Tuesday press conference, McConnell appeared to soften on that issue, but still backs a new White House proposal containing those measures.
Coronavirus-related lawsuits for corporations
The slow negotiations over COVID-19 relief have, in recent days, boiled down to two major sticking points: the scale of funding to state and local governments, and protections for businesses from litigation by employees who get the virus.
Republicans have stood by the latter, and are insisting on it in both the $908 billion bipartisan proposal backed by leading Democrats, and in a new $916 billion proposal launched Tuesday by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on behalf of the White House.
Little detail was given at the new plan’s launch, but it includes “robust liability protections for businesses, schools, and universities,” said Mnuchin.
The two proposals have significant differences, and Democrats have already criticized the White House proposal as it cuts jobless benefits.
McConnell has long said that liability protections are a red line in his negotiations, saying they will protect businesses from “frivolous” lawsuits from employees, and will give businesses confidence in reopening.
A draft Republican plan obtained by Business Insider’s Kimberly Leonard in July had aimed for liability protections to be retroactive to December and to be extended no later than five years.
In that instance, businesses’ liability would be limited to gross negligence and intentional misconduct. But experts have said that the bar is already high enough for employees to prove that a workplace was unsafe.
In her thread, Porter said that “cases filed on behalf of nursing home patients and grocery store workers who died because the company in charge of keeping them safe prioritized cutting costs over protecting them,” would be among those affected by the GOP’s proposed measures.
There have been numerous lawsuits against grocery stores, cruise lines, meatpacking plants, and nursing homes over the risk of COVID-19 for employees and customers.
According to Porter’s thread, McConnell has been the sole GOP figure holding out over the business liability issue.
McConnell’s office did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
McConnell’s slight shift in tone
However, McConnell has appeared to step back from his insistence on business liability protections at his Tuesday press conference.
He suggested that liability protections – along with Democratic-backed state and local government aid – be “set aside” for the current negotiations. Parties should expect to fight over it when President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration calls for another package, as is expected, he said.
It was his first shift in tone, having been otherwise intransigent on this as well as several other issues.
Until the White House proposal was unveiled, McConnell had stuck firmly to his own, much smaller, proposed bill which he claimed reflected “bipartisan concerns” but had no support from Democrats.
As senior GOP figures and Democrats – including Sen. Mitt Romney and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – continued to seek headway with the bipartisan $908 billion proposal, McConnell lashed out at Democrats for what he called “all-or-nothing tactics.”
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