Protecting small business from excessive coronavirus lawsuits is not partisan policy

Former President George W. Bush shared a public message with the nation earlier this month with a “call to unite” during these challenging times. The video touches on many aspects of the crisis facing our nation, such as the nondiscrimination of COVID-19; the sacrifice of medical professionals; the power of solidarity; and much more.

The message – similar to one delivered by our former first ladies, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama, at a recent joint event to raise money for first responders — is an important reminder that America has faced great adversity before, and we have always overcome it by uniting as one. In times of crisis, political differences can and should be set aside.

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Also in May, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said, “We can’t pass another (relief) bill unless we have liability protections.”

McConnell has come under attack for this vow, with some claiming that he is attempting to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to pursue a partisan political agenda.

President Bush’s message says, “The suffering we experience as a nation does not fall evenly.” Right now, regardless of which side of the aisle you stand on, we’re all concerned for those suffering the most during this pandemic – Covid-19 patients, frontline health care workers, and small businesses and their employees. This is who Senator McConnell has in mind when discussing liability protections, not his own party’s political points.

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Let’s be clear — I disagree with Senator McConnell on a variety of issues, but I do not believe he sees this crisis as an opportunity to advance his own tort reform agenda. In fact, I believe we both see the same opportunity – a chance to protect Americans in the wake of this historic crisis from exploitation in the form of nefarious lawsuits.

In light of COVID-19’s economic fallout, protecting small business leaders from excessive lawsuits is not partisan policy – it is a much-needed shield for those on the front lines.

Right now, for fear of lawsuits, doctors and nurses are afraid to make difficult medical decisions, manufacturers are hesitant to rapidly produce medical supplies, and nursing homes are pleading for additional protections so they can continue caring for aging Americans. Health care professionals fighting this virus don’t deserve increased uncertainty in an already stressful workplace – they need the confidence to do their jobs.

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Like in any profession, there are good actors and bad actors in the legal community. The threat of opportunistic trial lawyers is not only slowing down our Covid-19 response; it’s also hindering our economic recovery. Just as doctors currently lack the confidence to make tough health care decisions, businesses lack the confidence to reopen. Employers fear that there could be a “second big economic risk coming” in the form of Covid-19-related lawsuits. Without protections, there will be nothing preventing this fear from becoming a reality.

Limiting malicious lawsuits will have a real, immediate impact on frontline workers. Liability protections encourage the right incentives, curb the wrong ones, and inspire the confidence America needs to respond and recover from this crisis. Now more than ever we can’t discredit commonsense measures based on party affiliation. Frontline workers and industries are victims here. They aren’t interested in political scoreboards – we shouldn’t be either.

Those criticizing and opposing McConnell’s efforts continue to use blanket, hyper-political terms like “tort reform” to describe what he is truly pursuing – targeted liability protections for those on the frontlines of a crisis.

This incites misleading partisanship at a time when it can be least afforded. The closing lines of President Bush’s message are something we can, and should, all rally behind. “In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants…We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.”

We need to put our best ideas above all else and support those who need it most. Giving our frontline heroes the protection they deserve would be a good start.

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