By Tracy Rucinski and David Shepardson
CHICAGO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday to review a standalone bill for $25 billion in aid to airlines that Democrats tried to advance last week, her spokesman wrote on Twitter.
“Speaker Pelosi & Secretary Mnuchin spoke by phone at 9:33 a.m. The Secretary inquired about a standalone airlines bill. The Speaker reminded him that Republicans blocked that bill on Friday & asked him to review the DeFazio bill so that they could have an informed conversation,” spokesman Drew Hammill wrote.
Last week, Representative Peter DeFazio, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, failed to win approval of a standalone bipartisan measure for airlines under unanimous consent after some Republicans objected.
The request by airlines for another $25 billion payroll support program to protect jobs for another six months enjoys wide bipartisan backing, but a standalone measure would need unanimous support. A recent Republican-led attempt to pass standalone legislation in the Senate also failed after opposition from three Republican senators, aides told Reuters.
Video: Trump Orders Halt To Federal Stimulus Negotiations Until After Election (CBS New York)
Pelosi’s conversation with Mnuchin came as the Trump administration signaled possible piecemeal legislation for airlines a day after walking away from talks on another broad COVID-19 stimulus package.
A key component of fresh airline relief is to keep workers on the job for another six months. A prior $25 billion airline payroll support program expired on Sept. 30.
The travel industry has been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
American Airlines and United Airlines began the furlough of 32,000 workers last week, and tens of thousands more at those airlines and others have agreed to voluntary leaves or reduced hours. Southwest Airlines has warned it will have to carry out the first furlough in its history if workers do not agree to pay cuts in the absence of federal aid.
U.S. airlines urged top lawmakers to advance a standalone bill in a letter on Wednesday, warning that many more job losses are expected across the industry in the weeks ahead if aid is not extended.
“We are disappointed that negotiations between Congress and the Administration over additional COVID-19 relief were suddenly suspended yesterday,” Airlines for America and a dozen unions wrote in a letter on Wednesday to House and Senate leaders.
Airline shares jumped on Wednesday after sinking suddenly a day earlier on remarks by President Donald Trump that his administration would abandon talks with congressional Democrats over a major stimulus package until after the Nov. 3 election.
(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski and David Shepardson; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Bill Berkrot)