White House backs $25B airline relief extension amid coronavirus aid talks

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows urged Congress on Thursday to extend payroll grants for airline employees through next March, in order to avoid sweeping furloughs throughout the industry.

He said $25 billion was necessary to provide sufficient relief for six more months, mirroring the amount approved in March that expires Sept. 30. Meadows said he thought it was a small price to pay given the trillion-dollar-plus proposals under discussion, though broader coronavirus relief talks continue to stall.

“Compared to $1.5 trillion, it’s a rather small amount of additional assistance that could potentially keep 30 to 50,000 workers on the payroll,” Meadows said after a meeting with airline executives, who warned of imminent furloughs.

That’s the price tag on a compromise plan floated by the 50-member bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus in the House earlier this week. Democratic committee leaders shot it down as too skimpy, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi has demanded at least $2.2 trillion in relief. Earlier this week she said she’d be open to additional airline assistance as part of a broader relief package, but didn’t offer a dollar figure.

Senate Republicans didn’t include airline aid in their “skinny” $300 billion plan that couldn’t muster the 60 votes needed for cloture last week.

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CEOs of all major U.S. airlines ask White House for $25B in new aid

Sept. 17 (UPI) — The heads of all major U.S. airlines met with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Thursday to ask for more federal aid amid ongoing hardships in the aviation industry.

Attending the meeting with Meadows at the White House were American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, United CEO Scott Kirby, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly, Delta CEO Ed Bastian, Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram, Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden and Airlines For America President Nicholas Calio.

Airlines worldwide have taken significant losses since the pandemic began early this year and virtually all have made cutbacks in some fashion to offset the lost revenues from declines in passenger traffic.

Meadows told the CEOs Thursday President Donald Trump would support $25 billion in additional financial aid for the industry to save thousands of jobs.

U.S. airlines can begin laying off employees on Oct. 1 when a moratorium on job cuts expires, which was attached to the first round of federal funding in the spring.

“I never thought I’d say $25 billion was a small number, but compared to $1.5 trillion, it’s a rather small amount of additional assistance that could potentially keep 30,000 to 50,000 workers on the payroll,” Meadows said. “If we’re going to get something separate prior to that deadline, it’s going to have to happen next week.”

“We had a very good meeting with the chief [of staff],” Kelly said. “The first CARES Act kept this country out of pandemic and I think the only mistake that was made is that it didn’t go far enough and long enough.”

Without further federal aid, American said last month it will cut 19,000 and United said it will dismiss 16,000.

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White House Wants More Airline Aid, Meadows Says After Talks

(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump would support narrow legislation to provide more financial aid to airlines, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Thursday after meeting with industry executives.



a group of people standing around a bag of luggage: Passengers walk past thermal imaging cameras at Los Angeles International Airport.


© Bloomberg
Passengers walk past thermal imaging cameras at Los Angeles International Airport.

Meadows said the industry needs $25 billion, and that up to 50,000 jobs are at risk. Airlines have warned that they plan mass reductions after an existing federal prohibition on job cuts expires at the close of business on Sept. 30.

Extending payroll assistance for airlines has bipartisan support as a way to to avert politically treacherous layoffs a month before the U.S. elections, but so far there’s been no agreement as to how.

“I never thought I’d say $25 billion was a small number, but compared to $1.5 trillion, it’s a rather small amount of additional assistance that could potentially keep 30,000 to 50,000 workers on the payroll,” Meadows said.

“If we’re going to get something separate prior to that deadline, it’s going to have to happen next week,” he said of an airline-only bill. That would ensure it gets to Trump’s desk before layoffs begin on Oct. 1, he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has opposed “piecemeal” virus relief bills as part of her strategy for Democrats to win agreement on a multitrillion relief measure. She contradicted that stance when she called the House back into session during the August recess to vote on a $25 billion Postal Service bill in the wake of mail delays.

Letter to Leadership

In August, 16 Republican senators signed a letter calling on leadership to add $25 billion in payroll funds in a package of Covid-19 assistance. Some Republicans opposed the measure and it wasn’t part of a stripped-down bill that in any event failed to pass the chamber.

Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of the Republican leadership team in that chamber, said he favors aid for airlines, which are now operating at 70% capacity. But he said it should be added to a broader stimulus bill.

“If there’s a package, I think that needs to be and should be part of it,” Blunt said Thursday. He added that he doesn’t think airline aid could pass separately. “It needs to be part of the broader package. There are less than 50 days to a presidential election. There’s only so much wind here and we’d better take advantage of any sail we have.”

Back in July, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers called for more airline aid to prevent layoffs.

The prospect of fresh assistance failed to immediately reassure airline investors. All major U.S. carriers in a Standard & Poor’s 500 gauge were down on Thursday, joining a retreat in broader equity markets. The S&P 500 was off 1.2% at 1:48 p.m. in New York.

Badly Damaged

Carriers have been badly damaged by the coronavirus pandemic, which led many Americans to abandon air travel. After airline passenger counts surged somewhat around the close of summer and the

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US airlines lobby White House for another round of federal aid

The chiefs of majors US airlines converged on the White House Thursday to advocate for another round of federal support to avert thousands of impending layoffs.

“There’s enormous bipartisan support for an extension of the payroll program which would keep those people employed,” American Airlines Chief Executive Doug Parker said ahead of a meeting with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

“The only problem we have is we do not have a vehicle for getting it done,” he added.

American is among the US carriers that have warned of significant job cuts from October 1 without another round of funding.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly signaled strong support for airlines, and a measure to provide additional aid has garnered bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. 

Yet the prospects for aid remain clouded by a fight between Democrats and Republicans on a broader stimulus bill that has dragged on for weeks.

The industry’s outlook remains precarious in light of the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing downturn in airline travel. Total passenger travel in the United States is currently only about one-fourth the level compared with the year-ago period, according to government data.

Airlines received billions in federal support earlier this year as part of the CARES Act, on the condition they do not involuntarily cut staff through the end of September.  

Parker was joined at the White House by the chiefs of United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and lobbying group Airlines for America.

Delta on Thursday said it increased a debt offering to $9 billion from its original $6.5 billion in the latest move by a carrier to raise cash to ride out the downturn. 

The Atlanta-based carrier has said it opted for the financing — which is secured by its frequent flier program — rather than participating in the federal loan program under the CARES Act.

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Airline CEOs meet with White House in plea for more federal aid

A passenger aircraft of American Airlines.

Silas Stein | picture alliance via Getty Images

U.S. airline CEOs met with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Thursday, making a last-minute attempt to convince officials to approve more coronavirus aid as mass job cuts are set to hit the industry next month.

Executives that attended the meeting included American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby and Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly. Airline stocks pared earlier losses following the meeting.

Airlines received $25 billion in federal aid in the March CARES Act that prohibits them from cutting jobs through Sept. 30. With that date less than two weeks away, executives urged the White House to reach a deal on a new bailout package as more than 30,000 sector jobs are at risk starting next month.

The airline chiefs and labor unions that represent most of their workers are seeking another $25 billion in federal payroll grants that would preserve jobs through the end of March since a significant rebound in demand hasn’t materialized this summer, with demand hovering at around 30% of last year’s levels.

“We had a very good meeting with the chief [of staff],” said Southwest’s Kelly after exiting the meeting. “The first CARES Act kept this country out of pandemic and I think the only mistake that was made is that it didn’t go far enough and long enough.”

Parker said the executives are also in contact with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about a new, national coronavirus package.

“We airline CEOs are here on behalf of the people that work for us … keeping our country moving when our country is largely paralyzed,” American’s Parker said after the meeting. “Without action they’re going to be furloughed on Oct. 1 and it’s not fair.”

American said it expects to cut 19,000 jobs as early as next month. United said it could slash more than 16,000 employees, but it recently reached a preliminary cost-cutting deal with its pilots’ union that could preserve close to 3,000 pilot jobs at least through mid-2021.

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‘Problem Solvers’ Meet Their Match in U.S. Congress Coronavirus Aid Fight | Top News

By Patricia Zengerle and David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday said Democrats were open to delaying an October recess to get a deal with Republicans on a new coronavirus aid bill, as a $1.5 trillion proposal unveiled by moderates was attacked by conservatives and liberals.

With the U.S. presidential and congressional elections less than two months away, Congress and the White House have been unable to agree on a fifth coronavirus bill, having approved more than $3 trillion worth of measures earlier this year.

“We are committed to staying here until we have an agreement,” Pelosi, a Democrat, said in a CNBC interview, adding that there were disagreements with Republicans on how to “crush the virus” that has now killed more than 194,000 people in the United States.

The House was scheduled to recess no later than Oct. 2 so members can campaign at home for re-election on Nov. 3. But, echoing Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said lawmakers will be on indefinite standby, with 24 hours notice of any vote on a coronavirus aid bill if a deal is reached.

The difficulties in reaching such a deal were on full display as lawmakers from varying points along the political spectrum attacked the compromise floated by the House “Problem Solvers Caucus.”

Some conservatives labeled it as way too expensive at $1.5 trillion. And liberals complained it fell far short of what was needed to boost an economy plagued by the pandemic, and to save lives as more than 194,000 have been killed by COVID-19 in the United States.

Meanwhile, Congress is expected to focus in coming weeks on passing legislation funding the government beyond Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year.

Hoyer said that a stopgap money bill to avert government shutdowns would be put to a House vote next week.

The Problem Solvers proposal drew praise from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Executive Vice President Neil Bradley called it “a reasonable middle ground,” but said expanded liability protections for businesses, something Democrats oppose, still had to be addressed.

The Problem Solvers Caucus, including 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans, has been working to find common ground on coronavirus relief for the past six weeks.

“We can’t wait,” Representative Josh Gottheimer, the group’s Democratic co-chairman, told a news conference, saying the proposal was intended to get the two sides back to the table.

The gulf between Democrats in Congress and the White House is wide. In mid-May, the House approved a $3.4 trillion aid plan. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell responded by calling for a “pause” in any new funds.

By late July, he offered a $1 trillion bill that many of his fellow Republicans rejected, only to then put a $300 billion bill up for a vote that Democrats blocked as insufficient. Meanwhile, Pelosi had offered to drop her aid demand to $2.4 trillion and the White House signaled a willingness to accept $1.3 trillion.

Representative Tom Reed,

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House will stay until coronavirus aid deal, Pelosi says

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., meanwhile told reporters that remaining in session might mean letting lawmakers go home next month, but with a potential quick turnaround to get back to Washington for votes if a deal is reached. 

“I think frankly giving people 24-hours notice means we’re not adjourned, we’re subject to the call of the chair. Obviously we’re not going to negotiate this on the floor. Members don’t have to be on the floor to do this,” Hoyer said Tuesday. “What the speaker is saying and what I would reiterate is we will be voting on a piece of legislation as soon as we get a deal.”

Even if Pelosi keeps House members in Washington past their scheduled Oct. 2 departure date, it’s unlikely that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will delay his chamber’s pre-election break, currently scheduled to begin on Oct. 9.

Keeping her more moderate members away from their districts could be a risky move for Pelosi, especially if a final agreement on COVID-19 aid couldn’t be reached before the election. On Tuesday the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus in the House was unveiling a $1.5 trillion package they say meets the two main proposals in the middle: the House Democrats’ $3.4 trillion proposal, and a $300 billion offering from Senate Republicans.

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U.S. House Speaker Pelosi voices optimism about passing coronavirus aid bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday said she was optimistic about Congress passing coronavirus relief legislation before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

“I’m optimistic. I do think that we should have an agreement,” Pelosi said in a CNN interview. “That’s what we all want.”

The U.S. Senate on Thursday killed a Republican bill that would have provided around $300 billion in new coronavirus aid, as Democrats seeking far more funding – around $3 trillion – prevented it from advancing.

Pelosi said she was proud to see Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer “reject that terrible skinny bill to a massive problem that we have.”

She did not refer to any planned negotiations with the White House or congressional Republican leaders on a new bill.

President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has become a focus of the 2020 presidential race, in which he trails Democratic rival Joe Biden in several opinion polls. The pandemic has led to the deaths of more than 190,000 people in the United States and more than 910,000 worldwide.

Earlier this year, Congress rapidly passed four bills providing about $3 trillion to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. The Democratic-controlled House passed a fifth bill in May that would provide another $3 trillion in aid, but the Republican-led Senate did not take it up.

The Republican bill defeated on Thursday would have renewed a federal unemployment benefit, but at a lower level than Democrats sought. It also would have set new protections for businesses against lawsuits during the pandemic.

Other initiatives – including aid to state and local governments, a second round of direct payments to households, and bailouts for airlines – were not addressed in the Republican bill.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert and Jan Wolfe; Editing by Chris Reese and Grant McCool)

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‘Victory Garden’ Approach Could Aid AI Effort > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE > Defense Department News

Americans bolstered the war effort during World War II by planting “victory gardens.” Every citizen’s small contribution to the war effort added up to a lot of support. The same can be done to further the Defense Department’s efforts to advance artificial intelligence, said the acting director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center.

“The first step in doing this involves thinking critically about the work that you do,” said Nand Mulchandani yesterday during the opening session at the DOD AI Symposium. “Can you do it more efficiently? Can you rethink it? Could it benefit from automation, analytics or predictive capabilities? Is it ‘data-rich?’ If so, it might be a perfect candidate to build your own AI victory garden around.”

Mulchandani said DOD employees can plant “technological seeds” by learning more about AI, defining areas within their own work environment where AI could help solve problems, developing business strategies to implement AI capabilities, organizing and preserving data, starting an AI project, and sharing lessons learned from their own AI efforts with others across the department.

“The good news is that you’ll have support from the JAIC and the AI community that we’re building across the government, industry and academia,” Mulchandani said.

The JAIC was begun in 2018 to accelerate DOD’s adoption and integration of AI. From the start, Mulchandani said, the JAIC was meant to serve as an AI center of excellence and to provide resources, tools and expertise to the department.

Today, the JAIC is involved in pathfinder technology projects, coordinating with industry and academia on AI, training and education, AI governance and policy, testing and evaluation, international engagement, and AI ethics implementation.

While the mission of the JAIC is broad and far-reaching, Mulchandani said the JAIC alone can’t make AI happen across the department.

“This is a massive effort and is one that the JAIC embraces because we understand that all of these initiatives will help create the conditions for us to achieve victory with AI,” he said. “But we cannot do this alone … no single organization can tackle the challenges of fielding AI on their own — it will take our entire community.”

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Defense Department Official Says ‘Victory Garden’ Approach Could Aid AI Effort > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE > Defense Department News

Americans bolstered the war effort during World War II by planting “victory gardens.” Every citizen’s small contribution to the war effort added up to a lot of support. The same can be done to further the Defense Department’s efforts to advance artificial intelligence, said the acting director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center.

“The first step in doing this involves thinking critically about the work that you do,” said Nand Mulchandani yesterday during the opening session at the DOD AI Symposium. “Can you do it more efficiently? Can you rethink it? Could it benefit from automation, analytics or predictive capabilities? Is it ‘data-rich?’ If so, it might be a perfect candidate to build your own AI victory garden around.”

Mulchandani said DOD employees can plant “technological seeds” by learning more about AI, defining areas within their own work environment where AI could help solve problems, developing business strategies to implement AI capabilities, organizing and preserving data, starting an AI project, and sharing lessons learned from their own AI efforts with others across the department.

“The good news is that you’ll have support from the JAIC and the AI community that we’re building across the government, industry and academia,” Mulchandani said.

The JAIC was begun in 2018 to accelerate DOD’s adoption and integration of AI. From the start, Mulchandani said, the JAIC was meant to serve as an AI center of excellence and to provide resources, tools and expertise to the department.

Today, the JAIC is involved in pathfinder technology projects, coordinating with industry and academia on AI, training and education, AI governance and policy, testing and evaluation, international engagement, and AI ethics implementation.

While the mission of the JAIC is broad and far-reaching, Mulchandani said the JAIC alone can’t make AI happen across the department.

“This is a massive effort and is one that the JAIC embraces because we understand that all of these initiatives will help create the conditions for us to achieve victory with AI,” he said. “But we cannot do this alone … no single organization can tackle the challenges of fielding AI on their own — it will take our entire community.”

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