As part of the next piece of COVID-19 relief legislation, Republicans in Congress are demanding increased liability protection for business owners.
To this point, Democrats have refused to even entertain the thought — but now, The Hill is reporting that some key Democrats have indicated they may break from party leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and join with Republicans in support of the measure.
Protecting business owners
As the country reopens in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Republicans are concerned that business owners, especially small business owners, will be hampered with lawsuits from employees who contract the virus while at work.
The GOP is not trying to protect irresponsible business owners, but instead realizing that through the course of their normal duties and through no fault of the business owner, there will be American workers who come down COVID-19.
According to The Hill, some Democrats are finally starting to see the big picture and are now leaning more with Republicans; however, they are being very careful how they word their support for fear of backlash from Democrat leadership.
Sen. Christopher Coons (D-DE) is framing his support for such legislation as both liability protection for business owners and as a way to create a safer work environment for workers.
“The simplest and most powerful solution to liability protection is to have a science-based, enforceable standard for the protection of employees and customers,” he said, according to The Hill. “I don’t support a path forward where we don’t offer clear regulatory guidance and don’t offer liability protection for workers.”
Setting the standard
Many Democrats are taking the stance that Republicans want this so business owners do not have to take precautionary measures when they reopen, an assertion that is, at best, ridiculous. Coons, for his part, seems to get this, as well as realizing that it’s a federal issue, as many businesses in this country are capable of operating in different states due to their proximity to state lines.
Coons himself lives in an area where he stated he can “be in three other states in 15 minutes,” he said.
While the Democrat does not support blanket immunity for business owners, he does understand the need for there to be a set standard in place for all businesses on this front. “For a restaurant doing delivery or a small trucking company or a regional law firm, I think a national standard makes a lot of sense,” he said, according to The Hill.
According to The Hill, other Democrats who seem to be on board with some type of liability protection include Sens. Joe Manchin (WV), Tom Carper (DE), and Jeff Merkley (OR). Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), arguably the most vulnerable of all Democrats in November, would also like some sort of deal to be reached between the two sides to protect both workers and business owners.
“We got to have a balance on some things,” he said, according to The Hill. “I’m not going to give a blank check and blanket immunity to somebody. At the same time, I think we have to be very careful in protecting businesses. I think we can find an appropriate balance if it doesn’t get into partisan politics. I hope we can figure it out.”