McConnell gets the Katie Porter treatment over COVID stimulus hold-up: 'A slap in the face to businesses'
Why is another COVID-19 relief package held up? Rep. Katie Porter wants there to be no doubt: The help Americans need is held up by Republicans, and particularly by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's insistence on giving corporations "get out of jail free" cards for their reckless handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
McConnell insists on putting corporate immunity from liability into any stimulus package that passes, insisting it's necessary to protect businesses from a flood of lawsuits he predicts. But, Porter writes in an op-ed at NBC News, "Eight months into the pandemic, lawsuits related to Covid-19 exposure are few and far between. According to data from the law firm Hunton Kurth Andrews, which tracks Covid-19 lawsuits, there are only 383 lawsuits in the entire country related to coronavirus exposure. Compare that to the over 15 million confirmed U.S. Covid-19 cases, leading to over 290,000 deaths."
And those lawsuits are not remotely frivolous, as McConnell would have us believe. "The cases that have been filed represent some of the grossest instances of corporate abuse," Porter writes. "For example, workers at a pork processing plant sued alleging that management literally took bets on how many employees would catch the virus. Other cases allege horrific patient abuses at nursing homes or workplaces that forbid employees from using protective gear."
McConnell is using the pandemic as an excuse for another giveaway to corporations, this time not in tax breaks but in the form of blanket permission for abuses. But, Porter points out, that means that the businesses that would benefit are overwhelmingly the ones that have done the wrong thing, while the businesses that have worked hard and gone to expense to do the right thing will see their shady competitors get an edge.
"When businesses have acted creatively and quickly to protect public health, they deserve our praise," Porter points out. "Shielding bad actors from accountability is a slap in the face to businesses that have made the necessary sacrifices for public health, like restaurants that have moved operations outside or mom-and-pop stores that have provided employees with proper protective equipment."
Thanks to Republican gutting of the government's oversight and worker and consumer protection functions, the courts may be the only recourse for people who've been endangered: "Without scrutiny of allegations of corporate abuse in the courts, there may not be any justice for victims at all. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency responsible for protecting workers, has closed over 10,000 complaints, most without conducting inspections. The citations it has issued are tiny slaps on the wrist. McConnell is pushing for even fewer worker protections, tying up Covid-19 relief to put down a welcome mat for corporations knowingly putting employees in harm's way."
Mitch McConnell wants to let corporations expose their workers—and, in many cases, by extension their customers—to COVID-19, and to strip regular people who've been harmed of the meager protections offered by either government regulators or the courts. He's willing—hell, he's eager—to hold desperately needed aid hostage for that. There can be no both-sidesing this in considering whether Democrats or Republicans are responsible for delays in relief.