WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says it would be unfair to Republicans if Congress passes coronavirus “bailouts” for states because, he said, the states that would benefit are run by Democrats.
“I think Congress is inclined to do a lot of things, but I don’t think they’re inclined to do bailouts. A bailout is different than, you know, reimbursing for the plague,” Trump told the New York Post in a wide-ranging sit-down interview in the Oval Office on Monday that also delved into his opinion on Washington, D.C., statehood.
The president continued, “It’s not fair to the Republicans, because all the states that need help, they’re run by Democrats in every case. Florida is doing phenomenal. Texas is doing phenomenal. The Midwest is, you know, fantastic — very little debt.”
The president named California, Illinois and New York as states that are run by Democratic governors and are in “tremendous debt” because, he said, they “have been mismanaged over a long period of time.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized Trump’s “bailout” comments Tuesday, saying: “Every state has coronavirus cases, and it’s not just Democratic states that have an economic shortfall. Republican states have an economic shortfall.
“What we’re asking, every state is asking, because of the coronavirus, we need financial help in restarting the economy, and that’s what we’re asking for from the federal government,” Cuomo said. “How do you call that a bailout, which is such a loaded word, such a rhetorical, hyperbolic word? It’s a ‘bailout.’ There’s no bailout.”
Democrats have made it clear that approving funding for states and municipalities is their top priority for the next piece of legislation.
Maryland’s GOP governor, Larry Hogan, chairman of the National Governors Association, has also been urging Congress to send states financial aid. His state faces a nearly $3 billion budget shortfall this year.
“To stabilize state budgets and to make sure states have the resources to battle the virus and provide the services the American people rely on, Congress must provide immediate fiscal assistance directly to all states,” Hogan recently said in a statement.
Hogan said that if Congress doesn’t appropriate at least $500 billion specifically for states and territories to meet budget shortfalls, “states will have to confront the prospect of significant reductions to critically important services all across this country.”
Last week, Trump addressed the issue on Twitter, saying: “Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help? I am open to discussing anything, but just asking?”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has suggested that instead of Congress sending aid, states should declare bankruptcy, a comment that deeply angered Democrats.
“Really? Really?” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on a call with reporters last week. She said Illinois hasn’t done well financially because of mistakes made under its previous Republican governor.
The states are required to balance their budgets, and Cuomo has said that if McConnell thinks bankruptcy is such a great idea, then he should pass a bill in Congress permitting the states to go that route.
Cuomo has been pushing for Congress to pass funding for states since lawmakers negotiated the first major aid package in late March that totaled more than $2 trillion. He called McConnell’s bankruptcy suggestion “really dumb.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called McConnell “out of touch” and warned that idea would lead to “hundreds of thousands” of state and local government employees’ potentially being fired or furloughed.
Meanwhile, a number of Democrats have pointed out that blue states do more to help subsidize red states.
Three of the four biggest “taker” states, as Cuomo has described them, lean Republican: Kentucky, Mississippi and West Virginia, according to a 2019 study by the SUNY Rockefeller Institute of Government, which looked at how much states get from the federal government per year compared to how much they send to Washington.
The four biggest “giver” states, which contribute more to the federal government than they get, all lean Democratic, the study found: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.
In the interview with the Post, Trump also said Republicans would “never” grant statehood to blue-hued Washington, D.C., because they aren’t “stupid” enough to give Democrats “two more Democratic senators and five more congressmen.”
“You know it’s a 100 percent Democrat, basically,” Trump said. “So why would the Republicans ever do that? That’ll never happen unless we have some very, very stupid Republicans around that I don’t think you do. You understand that, right?”
CORRECTION (May 5, 2020, 7:20 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated when Congress passed the first major coronavirus relief bill. The CARES Act was passed in the Senate on March 25 and in the House on March 27; President Donald Trump signed it into law later that day. It was not passed last month.