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McConnell, McCarthy: Liability protections 'absolutely essential' for next coronavirus bill

McConnell, McCarthy: Liability protections 'absolutely essential' for next coronavirus bill
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWhat the Democrats should be doing to reach true bipartisanship Democrats mull overhaul of sweeping election bill McConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats MORE (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyPelosi, leaders seek to squelch Omar controversy with rare joint statement Omar: I wasn't equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries Schumer bemoans number of Republicans who believe Trump will be reinstated: 'A glaring warning' MORE (R-Calif.) signaled on Friday that they will not support a fifth coronavirus bill unless it provides liability protections for employers.

“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. 

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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 PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals Senate investigation of insurrection falls short Ocasio-Cortez: 'Old way of politics' influences Manchin's thinking MORE (D-Calif) told reporters earlier this week.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerIt's not just Manchin: No electoral mandate stalls Democrats' leftist agenda DOJ to probe Trump-era subpoenas of lawmaker records Democrats demand Barr, Sessions testify on Apple data subpoenas MORE (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."

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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.