Progressives push for people's bailout as McConnell holds out for corporate immunity

"Time is running out for millions of families facing hunger, eviction, and health crises"

Published December 16, 2020 1:47AM (EST)

Katie Porter and Mitch McConnell (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Katie Porter and Mitch McConnell (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

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As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's unrelenting effort to give corporations immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits threatens to undermine ongoing relief talks, a coalition of lawmakers and progressive advocacy groups is holding a virtual rally Tuesday evening to demand a "people's bailout" that prioritizes the needs of the millions of Americans on the verge of destitution.

"Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans refuse to support a real relief package, demanding instead that the government protect companies who force people to work in unsafe conditions during the pandemic," Sondra Youdelman campaign director for People's Action, said in an email Tuesday. "That's unacceptable, and we need the Senate to act now."

Slated to begin at 7:00 pm ET, the event will feature leaders from People's Action, Center for Popular Democracy, Indivisible, the Movement for Black Lives, and other advocacy groups as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

"Time is running out for millions of families facing hunger, eviction, and health crises," said Youdelman. "Join us tonight as we demand real relief for people, not giveaways to corporations."

The rally will take place as congressional negotiators scramble to strike a coronavirus stimulus deal before the end of the year, when more than two dozen federal relief programs are set to expire amid a worsening pandemic and economic crisis.

A major sticking point in the ongoing bipartisan talks continues to be the Republican push for a liability shield to protect corporations from an "epidemic" of lawsuits from workers and customers who contract the coronavirus. According to analysts, the supposed "epidemic" of litigation is not happening.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that while McConnell (R-Ky.) is advocating a five-year liability shield for corporations, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah)—part of the bipartisan group of lawmakers behind a $908 billion relief plan—has "proposed that immunity from federal lawsuits only last for 2020." McConnell has not said whether he would be willing to support Romney's proposal.

"McConnell is holding hostage the Covid relief that Americans desperately need, demanding as ransom a grant of immunity to corporations for coronavirus-related wrongdoing," Robert Weissman, president of consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said in statement Tuesday. "Americans need Covid relief, but we shouldn't have to pay for it by sacrificing our health and worsening the pandemic."

Sanders, who is expected to speak at the People's Bailout rally Tuesday, has vowed to vote against the $908 billion bipartisan proposal if it reaches the floor without significant improvements, specifically the removal of corporate immunity provisions and inclusion of another round of direct stimulus payments to U.S. households.

In a "Dear Colleague" letter on Tuesday, Sanders and five Senate Democrats warned that the corporate liability shield would encourage companies to "to avoid implementing the common sense safety standards needed to protect workers and consumers—and make a bad situation worse."

By Jake Johnson

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