A push for piecemeal legislation to help pandemic-stricken U.S. airlines is gaining traction among Democrats and Republicans as the industry warned of "many more job losses" in coming weeks.
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke twice by phone on Wednesday about a stand-alone airline relief bill and agreed to speak again on Thursday, according to two tweets from Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for Pelosi.
"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," he said in the morning.
"The Speaker & Secretary Mnuchin had a 20-minute phone call at approximately 6 p.m. tonight on a standalone airlines bill. The two agreed to talk again tomorrow," he tweeted about eight hours later.
Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio on Friday attempted to pass an extension of the just-expired Payroll Support Program for another six months by unanimous consent, but Republicans thwarted the effort, saying that it had not been cleared by leadership from both sides of the aisle.
Under the legislation, airlines and contractors would receive $28 billion if they avoided job cuts or reducing workers' pay through March 31, 2020.
|DAL||DELTA AIR LINES INC.||30.64||-0.12||-0.39%|
|UAL||UNITED AIRLINES HLDG.||33.86||+0.29||+0.86%|
|AAL||AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP INC.||11.28||+0.12||+1.08%|
U.S. airlines began cutting 35,000 jobs last week following the expiration of a $25 billion bailout fund that was created earlier this year as part of the CARES Act. Under the terms of the agreement, airlines were prohibited from cutting jobs or reducing workers' pay through Sept. 30.
In a letter to congressional leaders on Wednesday, airline labor and industry groups urged them to pass legislation that would provide them with another $25 billion in direct payroll grants, allowing them to continue paying employees through March.
"Several U.S. airlines had no choice but to move forward with tens of thousands of furloughs last week, and many more job losses are expected across the industry in the weeks ahead if the PSP is not extended," the groups wrote.
They noted that bipartisan majorities in Congress back additional funding for airlines.
"As leaders representing airline labor unions, U.S. airlines, and trade associations representing the travel industry, we are frustrated that an agreement could not be reached to provide support to people suffering from the impact of the pandemic," the letter said.
While air travel has mounted a tepid recovery since the height of the crisis, when it plunged 95%, air travel remains well below pre-pandemic levels.
On Tuesday, President Trump abruptly torpedoed negotiations on a broader stimulus deal, backing support for targeted relief for airlines and small businesses, as well as a fresh round of $1,200 stimulus checks. But he appeared to reverse course again on Thursday during an interview with FOX Business' Maria Bartiromo, saying the two sides are "starting to have very productive talks."
"It wasn’t workers’ fault," he told FOX Business' Maria Bartiromo. "It wasn’t our airlines’ fault. China did this terrible thing to us. I will not be forgetting about that."
Lawmakers are working on an increasingly tight deadline as they prepare to leave Washington to campaign ahead of the Nov. 3 election.