Rep. Katie Porter at a House Financial Services Committee hearing on December 2. Greg Nash/Pool / Reuters
Democratic Rep. Katie Porter attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Twitter for holding up COVID-19 stimulus negotiations over corporate liability protections.
Republicans have backed protections for businesses from litigation from employees who get COVID-19. Porter said those enabled “the worst of the worst examples of disregard for human life.”
The protections have been a major sticking point in COVID-19 stimulus negotiations, including for the $908 billion bipartisan proposal that lawmakers are thrashing out.
A new $916 billion proposal from the White House also insists on “robust” litigation protections for businesses — but it’s already a nonstarter with Democrats.
Porter accused McConnell of being the sole GOP figure left insisting on the measure, though he appeared to soften his stance on Tuesday.
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Rep. Katie Porter launched a blistering attack on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Twitter on Tuesday, slamming his insistence in COVID-19 stimulus negotiations on corporate liability protections.
“Everyone at the negotiating table-including Senate Rs-has agreed to a compromise. Except one,” she wrote in a Twitter thread, which as of Wednesday had 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 a press conference on Tuesday, McConnell appeared to soften his stance on that issue, but he still backed a new White House proposal with those protections.
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, insisting on it in both the $908 billion bipartisan proposal backed by leading Democrats and a new $916 billion proposal announced Tuesday by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on behalf of the White House.
Mnuchin gave few details about that plan but said it included “robust liability protections for businesses, schools, and universities.”
The two proposals have significant differences, and Democrats have criticized the White House’s proposal because it would cut jobless benefits.
McConnell has long described liability protections as a red line in his negotiations, saying they would protect businesses from “frivolous” lawsuits from employees and would give businesses confidence in reopening.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images
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 longer than five years.
In that plan, 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 among the cases affected by the GOP’s proposed measures would be those “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.”
Numerous lawsuits have been filed against grocery stores, cruise lines, meatpacking plants, and nursing homes over the risk of COVID-19 for employees and customers.
Porter said McConnell was 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
At his press conference, McConnell appeared to step back from his insistence on liability protections for businesses.
He suggested that the protections – along with the Democratic-backed aid for state and local governments – be “set aside” for the current negotiations. The parties should expect to fight over it when President-elect Joe Biden’s administration calls for another package, as is expected, he said.
It was his first shift in tone; he’d been otherwise intransigent on this and several other issues.
Until the White House proposal was unveiled, McConnell had stuck firmly to his much smaller proposal, which he said reflected bipartisan concerns but which had no support from Democrats.
As senior GOP figures and Democrats continued to seek headway with the bipartisan $908 billion proposal, McConnell lashed out at Democrats, accusing them of using “all-or-nothing tactics.”
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