Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's, R-Ky., of hypocrisy over his refusal to provide coronavirus aid to hard-hit states by pointing out that Kentucky takes billions in federal help each year, while New York sends more tax money to Washington than it gets back.
McConnell responded to bipartisan calls for Congress to provide coronavirus relief to state and local governments by rejecting what he called "blue state bailouts," even though he had no problem approving bailouts for massive corporations like airlines.
"I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route," McConnell told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt this week. "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."
Cuomo, a Democrat, chastised the Republican leader during his Thursday news briefing.
"This is really one of the dumb ideas of all time," he said. "You will see a collapse of this national economy. So just dumb — vicious."
"How ugly a thought," Cuomo said. "I mean, just think of what he's saying: 'People died — 15,000 people died in New York, but they were predominantly Democrats so why should we help them?' For crying out loud, if there was ever a time for you to put aside your pettiness and partisanship."
Cuomo than highlighted McConnell's hypocrisy by pointing out that Kentucky is far more dependent on federal funding for its state budget than New York.
"His state, the state of Kentucky, takes out $138 billion more than they put in," Cuomo said. "New York puts in more money to the federal pot than it takes out . . . Senator McConnell, who's getting bailed out here? . . . Your state is getting bailed out — not my state."
Numerous studies have shown that Kentucky is among the most dependent states on federal support, while blue states like New York and California contribute more to the federal government than they get back. McConnell, as the party's longtime Senate leader, has added billions in aid to his state in Senate spending bills.
McConnell argued in his interview that the Republican Party was uninterested in helping states, because some of them had fiscal issues which preceded the current crisis.
"There's not going to be any desire on the Republican side to bail out state pensions by borrowing money from future generations," he said. "So this is a much bigger conversation than we've had — providing assistance for small business — because the government shut them out, put them down, put them out of business or assistance to hospitals, which were overwhelmed by the COVID-19 disease."
But Cuomo rejected the partisan attack.
"State and local governments fund police and fire departments, and teachers and schools. How do you not fund police, fire and schools in the midst of this crisis?" Cuomo said. "This is not the time, or the place or the situation to start your divisive politics. It's not red and blue. It's red, white and blue."
McConnell's Republican colleagues also pushed back on his comments. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., called the remarks "shameful and indefensible."
"To say that is 'free money' to provide funds for cops, firefighters, and healthcare workers makes McConnell the Marie Antoinette of the Senate," he said.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who heads the National Governors Association, said declarations of bankruptcy were the "last thing we need in the middle of an economic crisis."
"Mitch McConnell probably regrets saying that," Hogan, who called on the federal government to provide $500 billion in aid to states and local governments, said. "If he doesn't regret it yet, I think he will regret it. And I think he's going to change his mind about that."
Hogan later told Politico that McConnell's comments were "complete nonsense," because "these are well-run states."
"States are the ones who are close to people's problems," he said. "We don't have a printing press like the federal government does, so it'd be nice to get some assistance from them directly."
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., went after the Senate leader in a Thursday floor speech.
"What does Senator McConnell say, 'I think the states should go bankrupt.' Oh, really? And not pay the hospitals, first responders and the rest? Oh, really?" Pelosi asked. "What made you think that was a good idea? It's just more notion-mongering to get attention, I guess."