New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday slammed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for suggesting states should be able to declare bankruptcy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Pass that bill if you weren’t just playing politics,” Cuomo said Friday at his daily press conference in Albany, calling the idea “really dumb.” “Pass the law. I dare you, And then go to the president and say, ‘Sign this bill’…I dare you to do that, and then we’ll see how many states actually take you up on it. I know I wouldn’t.”
On Tuesday, the top Republican lawmaker suggested that states most affected by the pandemic should consider filing for bankruptcy rather than seeking additional financial aid from the federal government. McConnell, who made the suggestion during an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt, said any additional federal assistance to state and local governments needs to be “thoroughly evaluated.”
“I think this whole business of additional assistance for state and local governments needs to be thoroughly evaluated,” McConnell said. “There’s not going to be any desire on the Republican side to bail out state pensions by borrowing money from future generations.”
Cuomo slammed the “absurd” suggestion on Friday, pointing out that states cannot even legally declare bankruptcy unless a federal law is passed. He then assured residents that New York is not planning to file for bankruptcy, even though the state is suffering a $13.3 billion shortfall since the outbreak began in March.
But while the state is projected to lose another $61 billion as a result of the public health crisis in the next four years, Cuomo said that New York is resilient enough to bounce back from the “economic tsunami,” and he’s more appalled that the federal government does not want to fund local economies during a pandemic.
“You want to send a signal to the markets that this nation is in real trouble, you want to send an international message that the economy is in turmoil, do that,” Cuomo said of the bankruptcy suggestion.
Turning his attention directly to McConnell, Cuomo said that New York has given the most money to the federal government, while Kentucky—the senator’s home state—is among the top three states that receive more funding than they contribute.
“You’re not bailing out New York. New York has bailed you out every year. Mitch McConnell is a taker, not a giver. New Yorkers are givers, Senator McConnell, you’re a taker,” Cuomo said. “Just give me my money back, senator.”
The political squabble comes as New York officials are starting to shift their attention to reopening the economy after COVID-19. To date, 16,162 residents have died and 263,460 more have been infected with the coronavirus across the state. Cuomo said that 422 people died in the last 24 hours, and the state has officially surpassed officials’ original prediction that 16,000 New Yorkers would die from the outbreak.
“Again, this is at an unimaginable level, and it’s dropping somewhat but still devastating news,” Cuomo said.
Despite the grim milestone, Cuomo said that “all evidence suggests” New York is on “the downside of the curve” as hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths have all decreased over the last week. He added that while the state is past the worst of the pandemic, he is wary about lifting shelter-in-place restrictions too quickly to avoid a second wave of the disease.
“All the progress we made is gone, and all experts, or virtually all experts, will say not only does the virus spread increase, but it increases to a higher point than we had increased the first time,” Cuomo said. “Let’s not put our heads in the sand and think this is the only pandemic we’ll ever have.”
Cuomo said that diagnostic testing continues to be critical in determining when and how individuals will return to work. He added he will announce next week whether to keep schools closed for the rest of the year and if New York will extend its stay-at-home order.
As the New York governor said Friday that the federal government needs to lend a hand, President Donald Trump signed a $484 billion COVID-19 relief package in an unprecedented attempt to rescue the U.S. economy and health system.
The package will put a majority of the funds—$370 billion—into relief for small businesses that had to shutter their doors under public health emergencies to slow the spread of the virus. Hospitals that have been most affected by the virus will also receive $75 billion, leaving about $25 billion to ramp up testing efforts across the nation.
But while the stimulus package notably does not provide funding for state and local governments reeling from the pandemic, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised Friday the next economic package would provide them with economic relief.
“There will not be a bill without state and local” aid, Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol, adding that the “the feds should be doing that anyway.” “There will be a bill, and it will be expensive.”
The top Democratic lawmaker also took a jab at McConnell on Friday, asking, “What’s gotten into him?”
“The president is asking people to inject Lysol into their lungs and Mitch is saying that states should go bankrupt,” she added. “It’s [become] clear, visible within 24 hours of how the Republicans reject science and reject governance.”