Speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday night, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) admitted that the election played a role in Democratic senators holding up financial relief for Americans. “There was some exuberance involved because an election was coming, and they were both bidding one another and trying to find common ground. They didn’t reach that point,” he said, adding, “We are looking at the reality now of a new president coming on board in just a few weeks. With President Trump leaving, we are trying to find something that we can agree to on a bipartisan basis…”
Tapper asked, “We’ve been hearing for days from lawmakers that an agreement is around the corner. Nothing yet. When do you think you’re going to have a stimulus package?”
“Well, Jake, it really depends on an agreement on the issue of liability,” Durbin answered. “Senator McConnell made it clear months ago, six months ago that he had a red line here. He wouldn’t consider any bill that didn’t include immunity from liability for major corporations and businesses. So we’ve been watching carefully to see the frequency of lawsuits that have been filed using COVID-19 as a basis. Personal injury lawsuits, medical malpractice suits. And during the course of the year 2020, with 16 million people, at least 16 million infected by COVID-19, on average we’ve seen three lawsuits per state. It really isn’t a tsunami of lawsuits.
“It’s a hard case to prove,” Durbin continued. “When were you exposed to the virus? Who was responsible for it? So we’re trying to do something that is reasonable that protects the public and gives incentives to conscientious businesses to do the right thing, but we don’t want to go as far as Mitch McConnell suggested.”
Tapper said, “But Majority Leader McConnell as I understand it — correct me if I’m wrong — has said that the sticking points are money to states and localities — the way Democrats want — and these liability shields the way Republicans want, why not just put these two aside and pass everything else? Is that acceptable?”
Durbin replied, “Because state and local assistance is absolutely essential. If we don’t give states, counties and cities some relief for their loss of revenue and the actual expenses of COVID-19, they are faced with some grim choices. Saying offer [aid to] health care workers, law enforcement officials, people in the educational field. All of these things would be terrible to the economy in general, and basically unfair to these people who are struggling to get by.”
Tapper queried, “So when the Democratic leader Chuck Schumer says that McConnell is trying to sabotage the deal by making this proposal to remove these two points of contention, you agree with him?”
“Yes, I do,” Durbin agreed. “I can tell you we’ve been at the table for weeks hour after hour after hour negotiating this. And the Democrats are at the table all committed to state and local government assistance. We have agreed to a dramatic cutback in the amount of money that is necessary just so the emergency relief for these units of government will be there. So it isn’t just a casual item on the agenda, it’s been a very important item.”
Then Tapper prompted Durbin’s admission that politics had played a part in the stalling of relief. Tapper stated, “Senator Bernie Sanders said that Democrats turned down a deal from the White House for $1.8 trillion because Schumer and Pelosi wanted $2.2 trillion. Now you’re looking at a compromise deal of about half of the White House offered, $908 billion. We don’t even know if we’re going to be able to see that passed. Looking back, was it a mistake for Pelosi and Schumer to turn down 1.8 trillion?”
Durbin: “There was some exuberance involved because an election was coming, and they were both bidding one another and trying to find common ground. They didn’t reach that point. But to return to those pre-election days and sentiments — political sentiments is very difficult. We are looking at the reality now of a new president coming on board in just a few weeks. With President Trump leaving, we are trying to find something that we can agree to on a bipartisan basis, on an emergency basis through the first quarter of the year, coming up before us. Compromise. I don’t need to tell you that Americans out there are getting very desperate and face, you know, hunger and face evictions. So everybody’s counting on legislators to come together.”
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