Democratic Senators Call Coronavirus Business Immunity ‘Unconscionable’

Senate Republican plans to provide liability immunity to businesses as they reopen following the pandemic are “unconscionable,” 42 senators said this week in a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The group, which includes Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), would be enough to block Senate consideration of pandemic-related legislation if the senators decide it is a large enough issue to oppose the overall bill. Due to the filibuster rule it often takes 60, rather than 51 senators, for controversial legislation to pass the Senate.

The immunity provisions remain a sticking point as lawmakers and the Trump Administration try to hammer out the next coronavirus economic stimulus bill.

Financial services trade groups, including the Credit Union National Association and the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions, have called on Congress to ensure that the next coronavirus crisis response legislation provides businesses with immunity as they reopen. Last week they were joined by more than 400 groups in calling for business immunity.

Consumer groups oppose such immunity. The Democratic House bill does not include it, but the Senate Republican alternative does. The Senate Democrats said the GOP proposal “will profoundly undercut the civil rights of millions, including people with disabilities, communities of color, workers and older adults.”

They said the immunity plan would discourage businesses from taking reasonable precautions to protect the public from the coronavirus.

The senators said that instead of offering science-based federal safety standards, the Republican bill would wipe out state laws providing protection for workers and would decimate federal protections.

“Putting the interests of wealthy corporations ahead of rectifying the anguish COVID-19 has brought down on hard-working Americans and their families is not a starting point for a negotiation—it is unconscionable,” the senators wrote.


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