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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSheldon Whitehouse leads Democrats into battle against Trump judiciary GOP lawmaker calls on Senate to confirm Michael Pack as head of US media agency McConnell blocks resolution condemning Trump over treatment of protesters MORE (D-N.Y.) predicted Thursday that Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: US Park Police say 'tear gas' statements were 'mistake' | Trump to reopen area off New England coast for fishing | Vulnerable Republicans embrace green issues The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump juggles three crises ahead of November election Vulnerable Republicans embrace green issues in battle to save seats 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) KingOn The Money: 3 million more Americans file for unemployment benefits | Sanders calls for Senate to 'improve' House Democrats' coronavirus bill | Less than 40 percent of small businesses have received emergency coronavirus loans GOP Rep. Pete King to buck party, vote for Democrats' coronavirus relief bill Bipartisan lawmakers call for Postal Service relief 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 Mnuchin The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Association of American Railroads Ian Jefferies says no place for hate, racism or bigotry in rail industry or society; Trump declares victory in response to promising jobs report Trump signs bill giving businesses more time to spend coronavirus loans The Hill's Coronavirus Report: BIO's Michelle McMurry-Heath says 400 projects started in 16 weeks in biotech firms to fight virus, pandemic unemployment total tops 43 million MORE and President TrumpDonald John TrumpTwitter CEO: 'Not true' that removing Trump campaign video was illegal, as president has claimed Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination Barr says he didn't give 'tactical' command to clear Lafayette protesters 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."