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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Deborah Birx ‘distressed’ at direction of WH COVID-19 task force: CNN

  • US COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx told those close to her that she is “distressed” at the direction of the White House coronavirus task force and is weighing if she will remain with the team, CNN reported Wednesday.
  • The White House coronavirus expert told people close to her that she felt her role was diminished after neuroradiologist Dr. Scott Atlas joined the task force.
  • “The president has found somebody who matches what he wants to believe,” a source close to Birx told CNN. “There is no doubt that she feels that her role has been diminished.”
  • Atlas denied the report during a news conference Wednesday evening, saying Birx “speaks for herself but that’s a completely false story and she denied it today.”
  • Another source close to Birx told CNN that the White House coronavirus expert is unlikely to leave her position on the task force but said there is some “frustration” in her day-to-day work.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Coronavirus expert Dr. Deborah Birx told people she is “distressed” at the direction of the White House coronavirus task force and is weighing how much longer she’ll remain in the position, CNN reported Wednesday.

Birx, who serves on the White House coronavirus task force, reportedly felt her role became “diminished” after neuroradiologist Dr. Scott Atlas joined the task force, according to the CNN report.

“The president has found somebody who matches what he wants to believe,” a source close to Birx told CNN. “There is no doubt that she feels that her role has been diminished.” The source added that Birx believes Atlas could be feeding Trump misleading information on the coronavirus, specifically around mask-wearing and its role in preventing coronavirus spread.

At a press conference Wednesday evening, Atlas denied there being any tensions in his relationship with Birx, saying she “speaks for herself but that’s a completely false story and she denied it today.”

“It’s completely false,” he told White House reporters.

White House spokesman Judd Deere told CNN in a statement that Birx plays an equal part on the task force.

“All of the medical experts in the administration are working together around the clock to carry out the President’s No. 1 priority: protecting the health and safety of the American people and defeating this virus from China,” Deere said. “President Trump relies on the advice and counsel of all of his top health officials every day and any suggestion that their role is being diminished is just false.”

Another source close to Birx told CNN that the White House coronavirus expert is unlikely to leave her position on the task force, but said there is some “frustration” in her day-to-day work.

“She is a good soldier,” the source told CNN. “I don’t think she’s going anywhere.”

James Glassman, who previously worked with the State Department and a friend of Birx, told CNN that Birx is more focused on “just getting the job done.”

“Dr. Birx is out in the states with the most trouble,

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