Outspoken New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo came for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a press conference Thursday, accusing him of politicizing coronavirus relief efforts and calling his suggestion that states seek bankruptcy relief "dumb."
"As soon as the Senate passed it, this current bill, Sen. Mitch McConnell goes out and he says [that] maybe the states should declare bankruptcy, OK? This is one of the really dumb ideas of all time," Cuomo said Thursday.
His statements follow the Senate's passage of a $484 billion stimulus bill on Tuesday, which excluded $150 billion in funding for state and local governments that Democrats were seeking. The House is also expected to sign off on it. Although the bill lacked the type of funding many local leaders were hoping for, the Trump administration has suggested it may be open to including that type of relief in subsequent bills, The Washington Post reported.
But McConnell seemed to disagree. During a radio interview Wednesday, McConnell suggested states file for bankruptcy, rather than drawing from federal relief.
"I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route," McConnell said on the show, as reported by Washington Post. "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's office later clarified that the states he was referring to were, in fact, Democratic states when a subsequent press release referred to financial assistance as "blue state bailouts."
Cuomo called the plan "shortsighted" and blamed McConnell for politicizing the pandemic relief effort.
"Vicious is saying, when Senator McConnell said, 'This is a blue state bailout.' What he's saying is if you look at the states that have coronavirus problems, they tend to be Democratic states," Cuomo said. "Don't help New York state because it is a Democratic state. How ugly a thought. Just think about what he is saying. People died — 15,000 people died in New York — but they were predominantly Democrats, so why should we help them?"
As the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., New York has been hit especially hard by the virus. Official state counts tally more than 260,000 infected, and close to 16,000 dead from the virus across the state. Social distancing and lockdown measures implemented to slow the spread of the virus have taken a major toll on the economy, as well, with newly jobless New Yorkers rushing to file for unemployment.
New York's situation could soon become reality for many other U.S. states, Barron's reported, especially those like Michigan and Illinois that have also been hit hard by coronavirus — and also happen to have Democratic governors.
On numerous occasions, President Trump, himself, has said that he would offer to help states with governors that are complimentary of his coronavirus efforts, although even infectious disease experts have panned Trump's reticence to shut down the U.S. sooner.
"It's a two-way street. They have to treat us well, also. They can't say, 'Oh, gee, we should get this, we should get that," Trump told Fox News in late March, referring to ventilator distribution.
"If there was ever a time for you to put aside your pettiness and your partisanship and this political lens that you see this world through ... if there's ever a time for humanity and decency, now is the time," Cuomo said Wednesday.
As governor of the state hit hardest by the novel coronavirus, Cuomo has stolen the national spotlight since the onset of the pandemic in the U.S. Trump and Cuomo — both natives of Queens, New York, have since engaged in a war of words — and occasionally tweets — over management of the crisis.
In spite of the dire situation in his home state, Cuomo closed his critique of McConnell with some encouraging words for New Yorkers.
"I am a governor of all New Yorkers. Democrat, Republican, Independent — I don't even care what your political party is, I represent you. And we are all there to support each other," he stated.