Washington governor calls Mitch McConnell's suggestion that states file for bankruptcy 'nuts'

"It was a very McConnell-ish thing to say," Gov. Jay Inslee said.

April 23, 2020, 2:43 PM

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee hopes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will retract a statement in which he said that states should consider filing for bankruptcy rather than asking the federal government for fiscal relief.

Inslee appeared on the "The View" Thursday where he responded to McConnell's comments on Tuesday after the Senate voted to pass a $438 billion coronavirus aid package.

During a press conference after the bill was passed, McConnell said that Republicans are not ready to send a "blank check" to states and that "we have all governors, regardless of party, who would love to have free money." He added that he sees "no good reason" why existing laws shouldn't be changed to allow states to enter into bankruptcy proceedings. As of now, states cannot do so.

"Republican and Democratic governors were shocked when he said we should let the states go bankrupt," Inslee said on "The View" Thursday. "You might call it ridiculous to say that. Some might call it ludicrous. Or, you might call it McConnell-ish."

"It was a very McConnell-ish thing to say; to let states go bankrupt. It's nuts," Inslee continued. "We have states, both Republicans and Democrats, who are doing the best we can to make sure people have food and public safety and health care, and they’re struggling to do that right now because they’ve had a collapse of their revenue structures. ... I hope Congress will come to its senses and [McConnell] will retract that statement."

In this March 11, 2020, file photo, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee announces measures to help contain the spread of coronavirus at a press conference in Seattle.
John Moore/Getty Images, FILE

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy have also criticized McConnell's statement.

On Sunday, Inslee responded to President Donald Trump's tweets urging governors to "liberate" their states amid protests against stay-at-home orders.

"To have an American president to encourage people violate the law, I can't remember any time in my time in America we have seen such a thing. It's dangerous, because it could inspire people to ignore things that could save their lives," Inslee told ABC Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.

Washington was the first state in the U.S. to confront the coronavirus outbreak when a patient who had previously traveled to Wuhan, China, tested positive on Jan. 21.

On "The View," Inslee said that “in retrospect,” COVID-19 was “brewing" in Washington "for weeks." He said it was there "probably before we actually had an identified patient" and that it "points out how important it is for us to have more science about the virus."

"This is a war based on science, and that's why we have to be guided by science, and we have to put our muscle behind new research, and we've got to follow the research wherever it goes," Inslee added.

In this March 5, 2020, file photo, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee addresses the press during a visit by Vice President Mike Pence to discuss concerns over COVID-19, at Camp Murray adjacent to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Karen Ducey/Getty Images, FILE

During Inslee's appearance on ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast on April 15, he said that reopening Washington state was still "quite a ways away" and noted the "beneficial impact" social distancing and mitigation measures have had on stopping the new virus' spread.

The Washington governor also spoke about states planing to reopen businesses this week, saying Thursday that these actions "should not be happening" and calling the decisions to do so "disappointing."

“I don’t think it’s safe probably anywhere in America right now," he added.

Prior to the outbreak, Inslee had his eyes on the White House, running in the 2020 Democratic primary race until August 2019. During his campaign, Inslee worked toward more progressive approaches to climate change to the forefront. After he suspended his campaign, former presidential candidates Julián Castro, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Elizabeth Warren thanked him for leading the way on the issue.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden and Inslee's teams have had two meetings over the last few weeks addressing concerns regarding both specific policy and prioritization of the climate in the former vice president's agenda.

On Earth Day Wednesday, Inslee endorsed Biden's 2020 presidential campaign

Inslee told "The View" that he waited for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day to endorse Biden because he "wanted to highlight his commitment to clean energy."

"I think Joe Biden is going to be a good president," Inslee continued. "He has a sense of integrity and dignity, and I do think he's gonna be a really great person for the needs of the moment, which is to unite the country that's coming out of this crisis and has had some very great divisions over the last four years"

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