White House lurches in new direction on stimulus talks, pushing for airline aid

The newest twist in the talks appears to be fast-tracking negotiations to aid the airline industry but shelving the prospects broader unemployment aid, another round of $1,200 relief checks to millions of Americans, small business assistance, and a number of other programs.

Still, after sinking on Tuesday, the stock market rallied sharply Wednesday on the prospect of a partial deal. The Dow Jones industrial average closed up more than 500 points, or nearly 2 percent. Airline stocks fared even better, with American Airlines and United Airlines seeing their share prices up more than 4 percent.

The herky jerky nature of the economic relief talks have played out over months, as the White House and Democrats have failed to agree on a broader support package. The economy showed some signs of recovery over the summer but not it appears pockets are softening again, with the travel industry last week announcing a spate of layoffs and the labor market remaining stubbornly weak while the coronavirus pandemic remains a factor in many parts of the country.

President Trump and Pelosi exchanged insults again on Wednesday, a sign that the broader relief talks are unlikely to be revived. But both sides did appear interested in trying to work out some sort of immediate aid for the airline industry, which has seen a dramatic drop in traffic since earlier this year. Last week, American and United began furloughing more than 30,000 employees.

Mnuchin’s outreach came amid a growing backlash from Republicans running for reelection who questioned – and in some cases denounced – Trump’s decision to end negotiations between Mnuchin and Pelosi on a broader relief package. Trump had announced Tuesday that he was asking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to focus on confirming Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court instead — a decision McConnell said he supported.

Pelosi last week urged airlines to hold off on the layoffs, saying she would renew a payroll support program either as a stand-alone bill or part of a broader deal.

Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.) tried Friday to advance a $28 billion bill to help airlines keep workers on payroll, under a procedure that would have required unanimous consent from all lawmakers. Republicans blocked the move.

Senate Republicans have pushed a package of similar size for the airlines that has less stringent requirements on how the aid will be used. It’s unclear if Pelosi and Mnuchin could come up with a deal on airlines that both parties would support, especially after Tuesday’s bizarre events that began when Trump suddenly announced on Twitter that “I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election.”

The backlash was swift. Seven hours after Trump said talks were terminated, he appeared to reverse himself in a new string of tweets.

At 9:54 p.m. Eastern time, he called on the House and Senate to “IMMEDIATELY” approve $25 billion in new aid for the airline industry, which has already begun laying off thousands of employees after federal aid programs

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White House aides downplay coronavirus aid chances; Pelosi blasts Trump, but discusses airline help

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Top White House officials on Wednesday downplayed the possibility of more coronavirus relief, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi disparaged President Donald Trump for backing away from talks on a comprehensive deal.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters that “the stimulus negotiations are off,” echoing Trump’s announcement on Tuesday, and said in an interview on Fox News the administration backed a more piecemeal approach to help some sectors of the economy.

But in a separate interview with CNBC, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said that approach would likely not work either.

“Right now in terms of the probability curve, this would probably be low low-probability stuff.”

On Tuesday evening, after having shut down the negotiations on a comprehensive coronavirus package during the day, Trump wrote on Twitter that Congress should pass money for airlines, small businesses, and stimulus checks of $1,200 for individuals.

Pelosi told ABC’s “The View” that Trump’s tweets were an effort to rebound from “a terrible mistake,” but she brushed aside questions about doing a slimmed-down aid package, still favoring a comprehensive version.

“It is really important for us to come to this agreement,” she said.

Pelosi, however, did ask 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. [L1N2GY0NM]

Mnuchin, who had been Pelosi’s negotiating partner as they tried to reach a comprehensive package in recent days, had asked her about the possibility of a standalone airlines bill in a telephone call Wednesday.

As for Trump’s suggestion about the stimulus checks, Pelosi told ABC: “All he has ever wanted in the negotiation is to send out a check with his name printed on it.”

Trump’s canceling of talks with lawmakers on pandemic aid rattled Wall Street on Tuesday, although Wall Street’s main indexes jumped on Wednesday as investors grew hopeful of at least a partial deal.

The Democratic-led House has already passed legislation seeking a wide range of aid as the novel coronavirus continues to spread, infecting an estimated 7.5 million people in the United States and killing more than 210,000 – the highest in the world. But the measure did not advance in the Senate.

In private negotiations, Pelosi and Mnuchin were unable to close a gap between the $2.2 trillion in new aid Democrats sought and around $1.6 trillion the White House signaled it could accept. But that lower figure was likely to face staunch opposition from some Senate Republicans.

Reporting by Lisa Lambert, Susan Heavey, Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Ross Colvin, Chizu Nomiyama and Rosalba O’Brien

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House Speaker asks Treasury Secretary to review airline standalone bill

By Tracy Rucinski and David Shepardson



U.S. House Speaker Pelosi participates in a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington


© Reuters/ERIN SCOTT
U.S. House Speaker Pelosi participates in a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington

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.



a airplane that is parked on the tarmac at an airport: FILE PHOTO: Boeing 737 jet sits at a gate at Washington's Reagan National airport with U.S. Capitol building in the background in Washington


© Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
FILE PHOTO: Boeing 737 jet sits at a gate at Washington’s Reagan National airport with U.S. Capitol building in the background in Washington

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.



a group of fighter jets fly through the air: FILE PHOTO: Delta Air Lines passenger planes parked in Birmingham


© Reuters/ELIJAH NOUVELAGE
FILE PHOTO: Delta Air Lines passenger planes parked in Birmingham

Video: Trump Orders Halt To Federal Stimulus Negotiations Until After Election (CBS New York)

Trump Orders Halt To Federal Stimulus Negotiations Until After Election

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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.

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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

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U.S. House Speaker Pelosi to Confer With Airline CEOs on Aid: Sources | Top News

By David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi will speak on Friday afternoon with the chief executives of the country’s top airlines, who are urging Congress to approve another $25 billion in assistance to keep tens of thousands of U.S. workers on the payroll past Sept. 30, sources said.

Pelosi and House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio are expected to hold a 2:45 p.m. EDT (1845 GMT) call with the chief executives of United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines and others, a Democratic aide told Reuters.

The end of this month marks expiration of the $25 billion in federal payroll assistance that airlines received when the coronavirus first began spreading around the world.

Airlines and unions are pleading for a six-month extension as part of a bipartisan proposal for another $1.5 trillion in coronavirus relief. At the same time, airlines are negotiating with employees to minimize thousands of job cuts that are expected without another round of aid.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows met with major airline chief executives on Thursday. He said President Donald Trump is also open to a stand-alone measure for airlines, though congressional aides say that is unlikely to win support given aid requests from so many other struggling industries.

Pelosi has said cited airlines and restaurants as two industries that need additional help but said that could mean less for other parts of the coronavirus relief bill.

“We recognize the severe impact the virus is having on our entire economy and the need for support touches many other individuals, organizations and programs. Assistance now can help to lessen the long-term impact to the economy and ultimately speed recovery,” United CEO Scott Kirby said in a letter to Congress on Friday.

“The aviation industry is a critical driver of the larger economy,” he said in the letter, which was also signed by the leaders of five unions.

Up to 16,000 United jobs are at risk without aid, he said. American has said it plans to end service to 15 small communities without additional government assistance and furlough about 19,000 workers.

Air travel has plummeted over the last six months as the coronavirus pandemic has claimed nearly 196,000 American lives and prompted many to avoid airports and planes, seriously depressing airline revenues.

Congress also set aside another $25 billion in government loans for airlines, but many have opted not to tap that funding source.

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski; editing by Jonathan Oatis and David Gregorio)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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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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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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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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White House’s Meadows meeting with airline CEOs as job cuts loom

By Lisa Lambert and David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows will meet with major airline chief executives on Thursday as the industry braces for thousands of layoffs in two weeks, and he urged lawmakers to embrace a $1.5 trillion coronavirus aid package proposed by a bipartisan congressional group and embraced by President Donald Trump.

“I’m meeting with airline CEOs today. We’ve got tens of thousands of people that are about to be laid off,” he said in an interview with Fox News. “So if nothing more, let’s go ahead and put that package on the floor and pass that. Because hopefully all of us can agree that laying off airline workers at this particular time is not something we should do.”

The meeting, set for Thursday morning, was organized by the airlines’ main lobbying group, Airlines for America, which includes American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines, two airline officials briefed on the matter said.

Airlines do not plan to offer a new proposal but will again be making the case that helping to avert airline job cuts is one good reason to pass a broad coronavirus relief bill.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow later told reporters that airlines have already received “quite a bit” of federal funds.

“We have indicated down through the months airline problems would get that,” Kudlow said when asked about targeted relief for the companies.

At the end of this month the $25 billion in federal payroll assistance airlines received when the deadly COVID-19 first began spreading across the country and around the world is set to expire.

Congress also set aside another $25 billion in government loans for airlines, but many have opted not to tap that funding source.

Companies such as American are now pleading for a six-month extension while they simultaneously negotiate with employees to minimize thousands of job cuts that are expected without another round of aid.

Air travel has plummeted over the last six months as the coronavirus pandemic has claimed nearly 196,000 American lives and prompted many to avoid airports and planes. With a major revenue plunge, airlines have had to turn to the federal government for help in saving jobs.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert, David Shepardson and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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