As Tennessee and the country at large continue to grapple with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with the Tennessee Department of Health reporting just over 7,000 cases of the COVID-19 virus as of Sunday, Sen. Marsha Blackburn announced on Monday that she would be introducing new legislation designed to allow for Americans to sue the Chinese government in U.S. courts for damages related to the pandemic.
Known as the Stop China-Originated Viral Infectious Diseases Act (Stop COVID), the bill would lift restrictions imposed on American citizens by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a bill passed in 1976 that grants immunity to foreign states from litigation in U.S. courts, with few exceptions.
Were the Stop COVID Act to pass, Americans would be allowed to sue the Chinese government in federal court for damages related to the coronavirus pandemic — though it should be noted that enforcing a judgment against another country would prove difficult even if the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act was lifted.
“China’s Communist Party must face consequences for its role in the origin and spread of the coronavirus,” Blackburn said in a statement. “The costs are devastating: trillions of dollars in economic damage, more than 22 million American jobs lost, and over 150,000 deaths worldwide and counting. Business owners and families who have lost loved ones deserve justice. Under this legislation, Americans will have the opportunity to take China to court in the U.S. and demand accountability for their lies and deceit.”
The Stop COVID Act is a joint effort by Blackburn and Republican Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona, who also condemned China’s suppression of information during the early days of the coronavirus outbreak.
“The Chinese government must be held accountable for the pain it’s inflicted across the United States,” McSally said in a statement. “Our legislation to allow Americans to file lawsuits against the Chinese Communist Party for its role in perpetuating the global spread of the coronavirus will give the U.S. a piece of justice.”
On April 8, Blackburn argued that the roughly $1.1 trillion worth of U.S. debt owned by China should be waived on the merits that the pandemic has already cost the U.S. more than $2 trillion. Blackburn has also heavily criticized the World Health Organization (WHO) for allegedly pushing misinformation at the behest of the Chinese government.
Blackburn did not specify when the bill would be introduced. The Stop COVID Act would need to be adopted by both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, as well as approved by President Donald Trump before becoming law.