McConnell, Cornyn working on bill to expand liability protections for businesses

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that he and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) are working on legislation to expand liability protections for businesses as they begin to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

McConnell, speaking from the Senate floor, said the forthcoming bill would include “significant new protections” and “raise the liability threshold” for medical malpractice lawsuits. 

“Senate Republicans are preparing a major package of COVID[-19]-related liability reforms. … Our legislation is going to create a legal safe harbor for businesses, nonprofits, governments and workers and schools who are following public health guidelines to the best of their ability,” McConnell said from the Senate floor. 

McConnell said the bill will include “new legal protections” for businesses, nonprofits and government agencies, and try to create an environment where schools will be comfortable to reopen in the fall. 

“If we want schools to reopen this fall, we’ll have to create the conditions to make that possible,” he said. 

McConnell said that he also hopes the bill will “find ways to expand existing protections” for manufacturers who create coronavirus-related therapeutics or vaccines, and that he also wants it to “create new protections” for medical equipment manufacturers. 

McConnell has called expanded liability protections the “red line” for Republicans on the next round of coronavirus relief legislation. The business community is pushing Congress to pass new legal protections amid concerns that they could face a myriad of lawsuits as they begin to reopen.

The details about the forthcoming bill come as House Democrats are expected to introduce their own bill, which will likely top $2.2 trillion, as soon as Tuesday. That bill is expected to include new state and local aid, more direct payments to Americans and an increase in food assistance. 

McConnell, on Tuesday, described the forthcoming proposal as a “big laundry list of pet priorities.”  

Democrats have been wary over McConnell’s push to expand liability protections for employers, warning that they will not support something if it weakens protections for workers. 

McConnell said Tuesday that the bill wouldn’t provide absolute “immunity.” 

“To be clear now, we’re not talking about immunity from lawsuits. There will be accountability for actual gross negligence and intentional misconduct. That will continue,” he said.  

“We aren’t going to provide immunity, but we are going to provide some certainty. If we want American workers to clock back in, we need employers who know if they follow the guidelines, they will not be left to drown in opportunistic litigation,” he added. 

Tags Coronavirus John Cornyn liability protections Mitch McConnell
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