A new stimulus bill update indicates that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is demanding that businesses be exempt from coronavirus liability lawsuits. According to Bloomberg, McConnell is concerned about mass legal cases emerging in the wake of the pandemic. He argues that this would do damage to the U.S. economy's re-growth after the hit it took with COVID-19 cases first spiked and states had begun instating stay-at-home orders.
The most recent coronavirus relief bill negotiations have been between Trump administration officials Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House Chief-of-Staff Mark Meadows, and top Democrat leaders House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. In a past statement, McConnell said that he would support whatever bill emerged from those negotiations.
"Wherever this thing settles between the president of the United States and his team, that have to sign it into law, and the Democrat not insignificant minority in the Senate and majority in the House," he said, "is something I’m prepared to support even if I have some problems with certain parts of it." However, it now remains unclear if he would still feel the same way about a bill that does not include liability protections that are to his satisfaction.
What a sad indictment of Sen. McConnell’s priorities. Families across the US are struggling to pay rent & put food on the table & the Senate Majority Leader is focused on shielding corporations from accountability. This is Washington at its worst.https://t.co/VH9qRaGrBn— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) August 12, 2020
White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany was asked about the possibility of the administration giving up the liability shield, in order to get better progress on the negotiations, even though McConnell has been pushing so hard for it. "That’s his priority," she said. This seems to indicate what many have felt to be the reality, that the White House is not as concerned about including this in the bill as McConnell has been. Meadows has not discounted the liability protection but has said that he and Mnuchin see it as something that would belong in a more wide-covering plan.
As far as when the negotiations will resume, there is currently no word on what the timeline may be for that. The Trump administration has reached out, with Mnuchin and Pelosi speaking on the phone this week, but that call reportedly did not end with a resolution. Additionally, Meadows has taken the week off from the White House, so that will likely delay the talks until he returns.