WASHINGTON, DC — As Congressional Democrats push for expanding vote-by-mail provisions and funding for state and local governments in the next coronavirus relief bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is making demands of his own.
"My red line going forward on this bill is we need to provide litigation protection for those who have been on the front lines: hospitals, doctors, nurses. Imagine you are a businessman thinking about reopening and you've heard that the trial lawyers all over the country are sharpening their pencils getting ready to sue you," he told Fox News this week.
Democratic leadership immediately rejected the proposal.
"We have every reason to protect our workers. We would not be inclined to supporting any immunity from liability," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth is more receptive.
"I think he has raised a very interesting problem. You don’t want to hold businesses liable for the reckless conduct of their customers. I’m certainly open to it. I don’t think we should do blanket immunity because you don’t want a company to escape liability if they have been careless or negligent but certainly you don’t want to hold them liable for the recklessness of their customers," said the Louisville Democrat.
Democrats and Republicans will have to decide where they are willing to make concessions as they negotiate the next deal. Last week McConnell began raising concerns about the national debt but now says there will probably need to be more funding for state and local governments.
Yarmuth believes addressing tort reform will be a heavy lift.
"I certainly think we ought to talk about that if it is an appropriate thing for the federal government to do. We generally have not gotten involved in tort law at the federal level. That has almost exclusively been a state issue throughout the history of the country but if that is an approach that makes sense, I’d certainly be open to discussing it," said Yarmuth.
The Senate will return to Capitol Hill next week.