Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday for suggesting that state governments should consider going bankrupt rather than be given additional federal funds to relieve the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
King described his Republican colleague as “the Marie Antoinette of the Senate” for making the comments during an appearance earlier in the day on conservative talk radio program The Hugh Hewitt Show. McConnell suggested that he would support states going bankrupt rather than helping them “bail out” of financial trouble by providing federal funds during the unprecedented health crisis.
“McConnell’s dismissive remark that States devastated by Coronavirus should go bankrupt rather than get the federal assistance they need and deserve is shameful and indefensible,” King tweeted. “To say that it is ‘free money’ to provide funds for cops, firefighters and healthcare workers makes McConnell the Marie Antoinette of the Senate.”
A press release issued by McConnell on Wednesday explained that he was against providing money that could be used to fund pensions in certain states, quoting his remarks under the heading “Stopping Blue State Bailouts.”
The “blue states” likely refer to several states hit hardest by the pandemic that tend to lean Democratic, including King’s home state of New York, where there were over 263,000 Covid-19 cases responsible for over 20,000 deaths as of April 22.
“We’re going to push the pause button here, because I think this whole business of additional assistance for state and local governments needs to be thoroughly evaluated,” McConnell told Hewitt.
“What states have done, many of them have done to themselves with their pension programs,” he added. “There’s not going to be any desire on the Republican side to bail out state pensions by borrowing money from future generations.”
Host Hewitt asked McConnell if he would approve of changing laws to allow the states to declare bankruptcy.
“I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route,” he responded.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also called out McConnell for what making what he described as “one of the dumbest statements of all time” amid the pandemic during a Wednesday night interview with his brother, CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
“[McConnell] says this is a bailout to the blue states, which is a really offensive statement,” Governor Cuomo said. “You talk about one issue where you think you can get past partisanship and pettiness and now you talk about helping communities where people are dying, and you say they are blue states? No.”
“The coronavirus attacks Republicans and it attacks Democrats,” Cuomo added. “It doesn’t ask someone are you a Republican or are you a Democrat?”
Newsweek reached out to McConnell for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.