Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) is taking the lead on Democratic opposition…

Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinThis week: Congress poised to buy more time on spending, coronavirus talksPower struggle sparks tensions among Senate DemocratsManchin slams Trump for ‘dangerous’ political ‘posturing’ during pandemicMORE (Ill.) is taking the lead on Democratic opposition to a business-friendly GOP proposal in coronavirus relief negotiations as he seeks the partys top post on the Judiciary Committee.
Durbin is taking a tough line with Senate Republicans in their effort to limit the legal exposure of businesses to COVID-19 lawsuits, an issue complicating the passage of another relief package.
Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer calls on Biden to bypass Congress and forgive K in student loans per personControversial doctor who questioned coronavirus vaccine to testify at Senate hearingCivil war between MAGA, GOP establishment could hand Dems total controlMOREs (N.Y.) office has informed Democrats that Durbin is the lead negotiator with Republicans over liability protections, discouraging rank-and-file Democrats from peeling off and endorsing a compromise that falls short of what Democratic leaders are prepared to support.
Durbin held talks over the weekend with Sen. John CornynJohn CornynBiden picks thorn in Trump’s side as new health secretaryLawmakers face hurdles to COVID relief dealMcConnell says Senate will pass defense bill despite veto threatMORE (R-Texas) in hopes of finding common ground on the thorny question of protecting employers from coronavirus-related lawsuits, but failed to make significant progress. Durbin, Cornyn and other senators met in the Capitol on Monday evening to continue the talks.
Cornyn earlier Monday called the talks with Durbin very cordial but fruitless.
Basically, the trial lawyers dont want any kind of liability reform and thats whats blocking this now, he said.
Cornyn said the latest development on this front is that Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyManchin slams Trump for ‘dangerous’ political ‘posturing’ during pandemicSanders says he can’t support bipartisan COVID-19 relief proposal in its current formRomney blasts Trump lack of leadership during pandemic: ‘It’s a great human tragedy’MORE (R-Utah) has proposed a retroactive federal shield for all of 2020 a duration that goes beyond the six-month moratorium on COVID-19 lawsuits called for in last weeks bipartisan, bicameral relief bill thats gaining traction in Congress.
Durbin has indicated support for the six-month protections, said Cornyn, who is backing the Romney proposal. Earlier this year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWarren signals concerns about bipartisan coronavirus frameworkGeorgia Senate battle is a high stakes poker gameOvernight Health Care: Biden unveils health team with Becerra, Murthy, Walensky in top roles | Trump officials deny turning down additional doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine | Fauci: Christmas could be worse than Thanksgiving for coronavirus spreadMORE (R-Ky.) wanted a five-year shield.
Cornyn said hes trying to support Sen. Romney but that Durbin has shot his proposal down.
So far theres been no movement at all. Its just rejection by Sen. Durbin, Cornyn said.
Cornyn said the liability protection language included in any relief package must include curbs on plaintiffs picking and choosing among legal jurisdictions, a practice known as forum shopping.
Linda Lipsen, CEO of the American Association for Justice, a group that represents the interests of trial lawyers, said on Monday that giving corporations immunity when they cut corners and endanger workers and consumers will prolong the pandemic and slow our nations recovery.
Despite the constant cries from Mitch McConnell and the U.S. Chamber [of Commerce], there has been no wave of litigation. And the cases that have been brought have exposed abhorrent corporate misconduct, such as management of a food-processing plant starting a betting ring on employees contracting COVID-19, Lipsen said.
A GOP aide said Democrats are to blame for the stalled talks over the liability protections.
While Republicans have offered multiple concessions … Democrats so far are not being constructive. Democrats continue to insist on the status quo, which has been rejected multiple times, allowing for a patchwork of state laws that would enable trial lawyers to forum shop, a GOP aide said.
A Democratic aide familiar with the negotiations disputed that Republicans have made any significant concessions.
Not true, Sen. Durbin didnt receive any concessions or compromises or anything of the sort related to liability over the weekend, said the aide. Conversations are continuing.
In the midst of the high-stakes talks, Durbin is running to succeed Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate Democrats urge Google to improve ad policies to combat election disinformationPower struggle sparks tensions among Senate DemocratsFeinstein pushes for California secretary of state to replace Harris in SenateMORE (D-Calif.) as the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee and is facing opposition from some progressive groups who favor Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseCriminal justice groups offer support for Durbin amid fight for Judiciary spotThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC – COVID-19 fears surround Thanksgiving holidayFeinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fightMORE (D-R.I.).
Democratic strategists predict that Durbin will make sure other members of the Democratic leadership and caucus sign off on any potential deal with Cornyn and the GOP.
He cant afford to cut what many on the left would consider a bad deal with Cornyn over these liability provisions, said one Democratic strategist and former Senate aide. This is going to be a little bit tricky for him.
A Democratic aide familiar with the talks said Durbins negotiations with Cornyn are completely separate from his bid to become the top-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over liability-related issues.
Thats two separate tracks. Hes able to do more than one thing at one time, the aide said.
A group of bipartisan lawmakers who unveiled a $908 billion compromise relief package last week have for the time being adopted placeholder liability protection language. They proposed a temporary six-month stay on lawsuits to give states time to enact their own laws to curb coronavirus-related liability, but the language as of last week was only sketched out.
Republican leaders and senior members of the GOP conference say the proposal to place a short-term moratorium on coronavirus-related lawsuits doesnt go far enough to protect businesses from liability.
This $908 billion bill just delays anything for six months to see if the states can act. Whats that going to accomplish? In Pennsylvania last week the Republican legislature passed liability reform and the [Democratic] governor vetoed it, said Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate gears up for battle over Barr’s new special counselAlabama Republican becomes third House member to test positive for COVID-19 this weekThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Mastercard – Dem leaders back smaller COVID-19 relief bill as pandemic escalatesMORE (Iowa), a senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee.
We should be passing something thats going to have activity in all 50 states, he added.
Grassley argued that businesses, schools, churches and other nonprofit groups should be protected from COVID-19-related lawsuits because its difficult to determine precisely how someone became infected.
You dont know where the fault lies. Did you get it at church or did you get it at the restaurant or did you get it at the workplace? he said.
Grassley tested positive for the coronavirus last month and has since recovered.
Republican senators now say that if Democrats dont give ground on the liability protection language, theyll block $160 billion in proposed new federal aid for state and local governments, a top Democratic priority.
The leader has made clear that state and local money is tied to liability protection, Cornyn told reporters Monday afternoon. Theres either going to be none or both of those are going to be provided for.
McConnell has tied liability protection to additional state and local aide since the spring.
Before we start sending additional money down to states and localities, I want to make sure that we protect the people weve already sent assistance to, who are going to be set up for an avalanche of lawsuits if we dont act, McConnell told the Guy Benson Show in April.
Schumer on Monday blamed McConnell for the impasse.
Unfortunately, our efforts to pass another emergency relief bill through the Senate have been stalled until now for one reason: The Republican leader has refused to compromise, Schumer said on the Senate floor.
Again today we heard the same old song from the Republican leader. His position has not budged since March, Schumer added.