Senate

McConnell says he'll 'insist' liability protections are in any 2021 coronavirus deal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday he will "insist" that any COVID-19 relief next year include protections against coronavirus-related lawsuits.

"I think liability relief is really important," McConnell said during an interview with Dana Perino on Fox News. "And if there is another coronavirus relief bill after the first of the year, I'm going to insist that liability protection for these universities and health care providers is a part of it."

McConnell's decision to draw a red line on what he will push to include in a potential 2021 deal under the Biden administration comes after he agreed to drop the same demand in order to cut a $900 billion year-end deal that Congress is slated to vote on early this week.

Both the House and Senate are expected to pass that bill, which is tied to a $1.4 trillion agreement to fund the government through Oct. 1. The coronavirus deal includes more money for small business aid through the Paycheck Protection Program, a second round of stimulus checks at $600 for those who make up to $75,000 and a $300 per week unemployment benefit that will last for 11 weeks.

McConnell had made including protections against coronavirus-related lawsuits a top priority for months. But he signaled earlier this month that he was prepared to drop his demand in exchange for Democrats dropping their push for another round of money for state and local governments. Both provisions were left out of the $900 billion package, though Democrats were quick to note that states and cities will benefit from provisions like education funding.

Congressional Democrats and President-elect Joe Biden have argued that the $900 billion deal is a "down payment" for another package they hope to pass next year.

"The bill today is a good bill. Today is a good day. But it is certainly not the end of the story, and it cannot be the end of the story. Anyone who thinks this bill is enough doesn't know what's going on in America. Anyone who thinks this bill is enough hasn't heard the desperation in the voices of their constituents, has not looked into the eyes of the small business owner on the brink of ruin," Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said from the Senate floor.

But Senate Republicans have signaled they aren't automatically on board for passing another bill next year. McConnell, on Monday, was noncommittal.

"If after the new administration comes in they want to advocate more, we'll take a look at it based upon conditions in the country," McConnell said.

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