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McConnell walks back bankruptcy talk, sticks to pension guns, floats tort reform

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I told you last week that I thought Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s comments about allowing states to go bankrupt was likely being overblown by the media. McConnell is very good at public negotiating ploys and the media eats it up every time.

Most of the usual local suspects immediately proclaimed Leader McConnell a truth-telling hero.

But McConnell walked it back yesterday

Under siege from Democrats seeking to oust him as majority leader in November, McConnell said the entire episode was “a classic case of taking things out of context” and that he never expected many states to use that option even if it were available to them.

“The fundamental point I was trying to make is that we’re not interested in borrowing money from future generations to help states solve problems that they created themselves,” McConnell said. “The bankruptcy suggestion would have been optional anyway. I wasn’t assuming many of them were going to take that option.”

* But he did stick to his guns about not bailing out state pension funds, which is what I figured he’d do last week

“I’m open to additional assistance. It’s not just going to be a check, though, you get my point?” Not really. He explained, “We’re not writing a check to send down to states to allow them to, in effect, finance mistakes they’ve made unrelated to the coronavirus.”

Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post

Well, no one was talking about that. This is to replace money that the states have lost because their economies have shut down and revenue to the states has dropped through the floor as they fight the pandemic and must pay for testing and tracking.

Well, um, actually at least one person was talking about that, and he’s from Illinois. Oops.

* But McConnell appeared to show his cards yesterday. What he says he really wants now in exchange for a state and local government funding package is tort reform

“We probably will do another bill. What I’m saying is it won’t just be about money,” McConnell said. “The next pandemic coming will be the lawsuit pandemic in the wake of this one. So we need to prevent that now when we have the opportunity to do it.” […]

“We can’t afford to not protect all of the brave people who have been at work during all of this,” he said. “It’s going to take a certain amount of courage to open your business up again if you think there’s a lawyer right out on the curb waiting to go after you if he sees somebody within six feet of someone else.”

Back to Jennifer Rudin

The likely compromise is to enact litigation protection that kicks in if the business complies with Occupational Safety and Health Agency guidelines for a safe workplace and follows guidelines from both its state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



  1. - Not a Billionaire - Tuesday, Apr 28, 20 @ 2:01 pm:

    Well the latest from Trump will Illinois fight Trump when he demands the meat plants reopen?

  2. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Apr 28, 20 @ 2:08 pm:

    Kentucky’s pension issues rival Illinois’ & the Dems took the Governor’s Office, in part, due to teachers mobilized about Republican efforts to gut their pensions. These comments were much more for internal Kentucky consumption.

  3. - Douglas - Tuesday, Apr 28, 20 @ 2:08 pm:

    Illinois has to take responsibility for its fiscal choices and bad behavior.

  4. - PJ - Tuesday, Apr 28, 20 @ 2:18 pm:

    -Illinois has to take responsibility for its fiscal choices and bad behavior.-

    Is this also true of the soon to be devastated red states who’ll have shortages partly because they don’t collect enough revenue? Or does this only apply to the states the national GOP doesn’t like?

  5. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Apr 28, 20 @ 2:19 pm:

    === Illinois has to take responsibility for its fiscal choices and bad behavior.===

    “Hang in there”… Kentucky

  6. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Apr 28, 20 @ 2:25 pm:

    Fair enough about not financing mistakes having to do with states’ past fiscal behavior. But bringing this up, and attacking states for their financial problems after giving your own interest groups massive bailouts and tax cuts while federal deficits explode, just reeks so badly of bad character and hypocrisy. This is not even counting blind loyalty to a president who’s had multiple bankruptcies and ripped people off, and so many red states being net tax takers.

  7. - Ok - Tuesday, Apr 28, 20 @ 2:25 pm:

    Same old political playbook. Go after pensions to try to bust the unions, then go after consumer protections and shield companies from liability.

  8. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Apr 28, 20 @ 2:38 pm:

    === Well, um, actually at least one person was talking about that, and he’s from Illinois. Oops.===

    Harmon’s Hampering will go down as an ill-advised letter, that no one knew he was writing, that had a national chit-chat ending with the governor telling Mr. Harmon “we’ll take it from here.”

    Whatever Mr. Harmon thought he’d accomplish, dunno if he reached that goal.

  9. - Biker - Tuesday, Apr 28, 20 @ 2:51 pm:

    McConnell’s state has the 4th highest unemployment rate hit due to Covid-19. I guess we’re all in it together until we’re not.

  10. - Biker - Tuesday, Apr 28, 20 @ 2:58 pm:

    Ex-Florida Guv, current Senator Rick Scott’s Wall Street Journal op-ed from (checks notes) yesterday in which he doesn’t want Florida to bail out Illinois is tragic given that his state is the hardest hit in the entire country in terms of new Covid-19 unemployment claims. It’s galling that he waits until after his state gets bailed out to return to his talking points.

  11. - dbk - Tuesday, Apr 28, 20 @ 3:20 pm:


    My thought is that this will be pretty all-encompassing legislation; the result would basically be that nobody would be responsible for anything that happened in the wake of re-opening.

    It’s not meant to control legal actions, it’s going to eradicate them. This is how McConnell operates generally.

  12. - TinyDancer(FKAue) - Tuesday, Apr 28, 20 @ 3:29 pm:

    =Ex-Florida Guv, current Senator Rick Scott…doesn’t want Florida to bail out Illinois=

    Yeah, Rick we’ll remember that after the next category 5 combines with Floridian’s irresponsible behavior: building too close to the shoreline. Want an ocean view? Pay for it yourself next time.

  13. - Last Bull Moose - Tuesday, Apr 28, 20 @ 3:32 pm:

    This sounds like the flip side of the attempt to make any Covid case a workers comp issue. If the business is following OSHA rules, then it has a defense against claims that the business set the stage for the infection.

  14. - Nick Name - Tuesday, Apr 28, 20 @ 3:44 pm:

    ===Ex-Florida Guv, current Senator Rick Scott’s Wall Street Journal op-ed from (checks notes) yesterday in which he doesn’t want Florida to bail out Illinois===

    This is a good time to remind everyone that Illinois is a donor state while Florida (checks yesterday’s Capfax) received almost $46 billions in federal taxes than it paid in 2017.

  15. - walker - Tuesday, Apr 28, 20 @ 5:38 pm:

    We seem to have started early on the lawsuit wave. /s

  16. - All This - Tuesday, Apr 28, 20 @ 5:58 pm:

    ==Ex-Florida Guv, current Senator Rick Scott…doesn’t want Florida to bail out Illinois==
    All of the United States will be bailing out Florida soon It is in dire straits.

  17. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Apr 28, 20 @ 6:06 pm:

    I think it was an article on meat processing plants that said OSHA was failing workers, that OSHA was making suggestions for covid-19 protection, not mandating new procedures.

  18. - Southwest Sider - Wednesday, Apr 29, 20 @ 8:04 am:

    The Harmon letter and McConnell have succeeded in starting a national debate. Neither of their proposals is remotely viable. But some consensus to bail out states, but not pensions.

  19. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Apr 29, 20 @ 8:14 am:

    === but not pensions.===

    That pesky constitution, and how budgets are cobbled, and legislative requirements and mandates…

    The thing is about a bailout, the rules to put together a budget and the obligations required… it’s not going to be as easy as ignoring pensions, or as simple as skipping payments.

    If it were easy and simple…

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