NJ, NY governors blast McConnell for pushing ‘bankruptcy route’ for states: ‘Repugnant’

Greg Nash

The governors of New York and New Jersey, two of the states hardest hit by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, on Wednesday denounced Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for suggesting that states could “use the bankruptcy route” instead of receiving financial assistance from the federal government. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) called McConnell’s remarks “politically repugnant,” arguing they would do nothing to help states reopen portions of the U.S. economy.

“It’s one of the dumb statements of all time,” he added.

“Encouraging, explicitly almost hoping for bankruptcies of American states in the midst of the biggest health care crisis this country has ever faced is completely and utterly irresponsible,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said during a news briefing, according to Politico

The comments from the governors arrived as states around the country face budget challenges prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, which led to the mass closings of nonessential businesses and schools around the nation.

Congress allocated $150 billion to states in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package signed into law last month. But the latest $484 billion relief bill passed by the Senate and expected to be approved by the House on Thursday includes no new funding for local governments. 

Speaking about the issue during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday, McConnell floated the idea of letting states go bankrupt to receive some form of aid. 

“There’s no good reason for it not to be available,” McConnell said, noting that states’ first choice would “be for the federal government to borrow money from future generations to send it down to them now so they don’t have to do that.”

“That’s not something I’m going to be in favor of,” he added. 

The Republican leader suggested that some states are facing budget challenges because of the generous benefits they offer public employees. 

“There’s not going to be any desire on the Republican side to bail out state pensions by borrowing money from future generations,” he said. McConnell’s office also branded the push for more state funding as “blue state bailouts.”

Cuomo, who has repeatedly criticized Congress for the lack of financial assistance, said on CNN Wednesday night that McConnell’s suggestion of a “blue state bailout” is “offensive.”

“You talk about one issue where you think you can get past partisanship and pettiness, and you talk about communities where people are dying and you say they are blue states,” Cuomo said during an interview with his brother, Chris Cuomo, on CNN. “How am I supposed to reopen if you want me to declare bankruptcy?”

Andrew Cuomo said that Republicans and Democrats alike are to blame for the lack of state funding. He also asserted that the failure to address state budget challenges meant police and fire departments and public schools would face more economic harm. 

His comments were echoed by GOP Rep. Pete King (N.Y.), who called McConnell’s remarks “shameful and indefensible.”

The National Governors Association sent a letter to McConnell earlier this week asking for $500 billion to help states cope with lost revenue.

Tags Andrew Cuomo Bankruptcy Chris Cuomo Coronavirus Mitch McConnell Pete King states
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