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Schumer predicts McConnell will walk back 'out of mainstream' remarks on state bankruptcy

Schumer predicts McConnell will walk back 'out of mainstream' remarks on state bankruptcy
© Bonnie Cash

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerThe five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Collins urges voters to turn out in Georgia runoffs Protect America's houses of worship in year-end appropriations package MORE (D-N.Y.) predicted Thursday that Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFive things to know about Georgia's Senate runoffs Obama chief economist says Democrats should accept smaller coronavirus relief package if necessary Memo to Biden: Go big — use the moment to not only rebuild but to rebuild differently MORE (R-Ky.) will need to walk back his comments on allowing states to declare bankruptcy.

"Mitch McConnell’s remarks are so far out of mainstream he's going to have to walk them back. This is not an abstract concept. What he's dealing with is the firing, the furloughing, of police officers and firefighters; ambulance drivers and bus drivers; people who keep our food safe," Schumer said on MSNBC.

"I will say this: McConnell has become more and more isolated in his position [that] we shouldn't help the states and localities," Schumer added. "This is just an absurd position."

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McConnell told radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday that he would support allowing states to declare bankruptcy as officials have warned they are facing steep budget holes due to the devastating economic impact of the coronavirus.

"I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route. It saves some cities. And there’s no good reason for it not to be available. My guess is their 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," McConnell said.

He added that any additional federal assistance beyond the $150 billion provided to state and local governments last month would have to be "thoroughly evaluated" by the Senate GOP conference.

A GOP leadership aide noted that McConnell was responding to Hewitt, who raised the issue of states declaring bankruptcy, and not signaling the direction of GOP strategy.

But McConnell has faced backlash from state officials and lawmakers from states hard hit by the coronavirus, including members of his own party. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said McConnell would regret his comments, while Rep. Pete KingPeter (Pete) KingRundown of the House seats Democrats, GOP flipped on Election Day Democrats, GOP fighting over largest House battlefield in a decade Treasury withheld nearly M from FDNY 9/11 health program MORE (R-N.Y.) called him the  “Marie Antoinette of the Senate."

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Schumer, during the MSNBC interview, argued that previous GOP politicians, including former Presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, would not have taken the same stance as McConnell.

"It's so mean-spirited to simply try to make this into a political argument when it's people's lives and livelihood and safety that is at stake," Schumer said. "As I said, he will have to walk this back. It is so far removed from the mainstream, so far removed from any party's thinking."

The National Governors Association has asked Congress for an additional $500 billion for state and local governments. Though lawmakers previously provided $150 billion, the $484 billion bill that Congress passed this week included no additional funding for states.

Republicans warned that including the funding would prevent the legislation from passing the Senate without making lawmakers return to Washington for a roll call vote. Some GOP senators have signaled they are wary of providing funding to states if it can be redirected toward non-coronavirus related needs. Democrats and some governors are calling for more flexibility, not less.

Both Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinMonumental economic challenges await Biden's Treasury secretary Biden's Treasury pick will have lengthy to-do list on taxes On The Money: Initial jobless claims rise for 2nd week | Dow dips below 30K | Mnuchin draws fire for COVID-19 relief move | Manhattan DA appeals dismissal of Manafort charges MORE and President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Pa. lawmaker was informed of positive coronavirus test while meeting with Trump: report MORE have indicated they are open to including additional state and local assistance in the next coronavirus relief bill, which is not expected to pass Congress until at least May.

Asked if he had concerns that McConnell was speaking for Trump, Schumer said he "believes McConnell is isolated here."