Graphic via Shutterstock / Courier
Graphic via Shutterstock / Courier

The Senate Majority Leader was quickly criticized for his comments: One Republican called him “McConnell the Marie Antoinette of the Senate.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell caught intense backlash from Democrats and some members of his own party for suggesting states should file for bankruptcy rather than receive additional federal funds to help recover from economic losses tied to the coronavirus outbreak.

“I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route,” McConnell said Wednesday in a radio interview on Wednesday. “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.”

After the interview, McConnell’s office circulated a news release summarizing his comments, titled “Stopping Blue State Bailouts.” 

Fellow Republican Rep. Pete King of New York took to Twitter to express disgust with McConnell’s comments Wednesday night, comparing him to the French queen whose “let them eat cake” quote rallied peasants to revolt against the ruling class.

“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.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the bankruptcy suggestion “one of the saddest, really dumb comments of all time.”

“Let’s have all the states declare bankruptcy. That’s the way to bring the national economy back,” Cuomo told WAMC public radio listeners sarcastically. “When are they going to stop with the partisanship? Not even on life and death? I mean, it’s so ridiculous.” 

Coronavirus has accounted for 15,000 deaths and more than 250,000 infections in New York.

Later Wednesday, McConnell told Fox News that he was not opposed to helping states “with anything related to coronavirus” but he wanted Congress to wait before approving more money. They had to consider “the future potential damage of the country by adding $2.7 trillion to the national debt,” he said. 

His comments came a day after the Senate passed a $484 billion deal to shore up hospitals, coronavirus testing, and increase funding for the Paycheck Protection Program by $310 billion. The PPP’s original funding was quickly depleted when large corporations applied for and received massive grants, leaving small and medium-sized businesses in the cold.

Larger firms will be blocked from accessing the new funding, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said. The bill will also boost a separate small-business emergency grant and loan program by $60 billion, and direct $75 billion to hospitals and $25 billion to a new coronavirus testing program.