Speed Reads

Coronavirus and Congress

Mitch McConnell gets bipartisan blowback for pushing bankruptcy over federal aid for reeling states

The House is expected to clear a $484 billion coronavirus relief package to replenish a small-business loan programs Thursday, sending it to President Trump's desk. Democrats won $100 billion for hospitals and national coronavirus testing in the legislation, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a Democratic push to include $150 billion for states and local governments. The White House said those funds would be included in the next rescue bill, but McConnell pushed the "pause button" on more aid packages Tuesday, telling The Wall Street Journal he's now worried about the national debt.

McConnell told conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday that governors "would love to have free money" but he would prefer hard-hit states be allowed "to use the bankruptcy route." States can't legally declare bankruptcy. In a press release, McConnell called relief funds for states "Blue State bailouts."

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) tweeted Tuesday afternoon that he's working with colleagues to provide "additional and more flexible" funding for states, adding: "The skyrocketing unemployment rate and subsequent decline in tax revenue has left local governments stretched to the limit." Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) called McConnell "the Marie Antoinette of the Senate" Wednesday night, arguing it's "shameful and indefensible" to urge "devastated" states to declare bankruptcy, adding it's not "'free money' to provide funds for cops, firefighters, and health care workers."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) shrugged off McConnell's state funding comments Wednesday, telling Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. that "McConnell will do whatever the president wants," and Trump "needs this" for his re-election. "Look at the language of Mitch McConnell: 'I'm not bailing out blue states, they should go bankrupt,'" she added. "Really? Really? How insecure is he in his own race in Kentucky to have to resort to that pathetic language?" The House will take the lead on the next bill, Pelosi said, and McConnell can take it or make a better offer.