House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would not support a stand-alone aid measure for the crippled airline industry unless the White House agreed to move forward with a larger coronavirus stimulus package.
“Let me just be really clear: I have been open to having a stand-alone bill for the airlines or part of a bigger bill. But there is no stand-alone bill without a bigger bill,” the California Democrat said Thursday during a press conference.
Congress gave the airline industry $25 billion this spring to help carriers keep workers on the payroll as travel plummeted amid the pandemic. As part of that aid, carriers were barred from cutting jobs through September – when many at the time believed the virus would be under control.
But the pandemic has raged on and has continued to hammer the industry. United Airlines and American Airlines began furloughing and laying off more than 35,000 workers earlier this month, when the clock ran out on prohibitions tied to the earlier relief. Carriers have pleaded with Congress to pass additional relief.
Pelosi’s comments Thursday could doom the potential of more aid before the Nov. 3 election.
The possibility of a broader relief bill is in limbo after President Donald Trump on Tuesday directed his administration to pull out of months-long negotiations with House Democrats until after the election – a move that has been sharply criticized by Democrats and even some Republicans.
Trump later that day appeared to acquiesce, indicating that he would certainly support stand-alone stimulus measures, including aid for the airlines.
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Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke Wednesday evening, Pelosi said, about restarting discussions over relief measures and specifically about airline relief.
Republicans have been pushing for stand-alone relief bills for months, while Democrats have been reluctant.
House Democrats, however, attempted last week to advance a stand-alone bill on relief for the airline industry while talks over a larger stimulus package were ongoing, but Republicans blocked the measure.
Pelosi on Thursday once again hammered Trump for pulling out of negotiations over a broader relief bill. She added that she remains open and willing to move forward with talks with the White House.
“We’re at the table. We want to continue the conversation. We’ve made some progress. We’re exchanging language. So we’ll see how we connect,” Pelosi said.