Washington — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing for liability protections for businesses and hospitals in the next round of coronavirus relief legislation, raising objections from congressional Democratic leaders as lawmakers begin shaping a fourth bill to address the crisis. In a radio interview with Fox News anchor Brian Kilmeade on Wednesday morning, McConnell argued that there will be a "second pandemic" of "lawsuits against doctors, nurses, hospitals and brave business people who are opening up."
"We can say the country is opening up, but if people don't come and businesses are afraid to open because of the lawyers that are lurking on the curbside outside their doors, we won't have the reopening we want," McConnell said.
McConnell also said in an interview with Politico on Monday that he was going to "insist" that the next legislative package include liability protection.
However, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called McConnell's suggestion "subterfuge" in an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday, claiming that McConnell was trying to make it more difficult to get aid to state and local governments. Democrats have argued that the main priority for the next coronavirus relief package should be bolstering financial support for state governments.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi also told reporters on Tuesday that her goal was to "protect the workers," and raised concerns that including liability protections would restrict workers' rights.
"I don't think at this time of the coronavirus that there is any interest in having any less protection for our workers," Pelosi said.
The Senate isto the Capitol next Monday, while the House will continue its work remotely for the time being. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced that the House would not be returning to Washington upon the recommendation of the Capitol attending physician. The Senate will still reconvene, as McConnell has argued that members of Congress should be considered essential workers.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Schumer argued that McConnell was reconvening the Senate for the purpose of "confirming more unqualified, right-wing judges and protecting CEOs instead of workers."
He called for the Senate to hold more hearings about the administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
"Key administration officials must be forced to answer tough questions in public hearings about why the United States still does not have adequate testing, what is being done to protect workers, and why larger and wealthier businesses are getting preferential treatment over smaller businesses that have oftentimes suffered greater hardship," Schumer said.