House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday there could be no action on a stand-alone bill to aid airlines or any other sector of the economy without an agreement with the White House and Republicans on a broader stimulus package.
Her remarks suggested that there will be no quick relief for airlines or resolution of the standoff over aiding the U.S. economy, even amid warning signs the recovery will weaken without further stimulus.
Pelosi has rebuffed President Donald Trump’s calls for Congress to pass relief legislation piecemeal, though she said airline aid could move through Congress before a comprehensive deal is voted on -- if there is agreement on a broader package.
“They just want money for the president to spend money on who knows what?” Pelosi said at a news conference. “There is no stand-alone bill without a bigger bill.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin broached the idea of continuing stimulus discussions during a call with Pelosi on Wednesday, one day after Trump announced on Twitter he was ending negotiations, according to a person familiar with the discussion.
Pelosi said in an interview on Bloomberg Television that she drew the “inference” that Mnuchin was interested in broader stimulus talks and that she had confidence in the Treasury secretary. But she said the White House hasn’t provided a full counteroffer to the $2.2 trillion plan that the House passed last week as the Democrats’ negotiating position. Pelosi said this week she is pressing for language that would limit Trump’s ability to divert virus testing and treatment funds to other projects.
“I’m always optimistic,” Pelosi said. “Maybe the president seeing the reaction to his walking away from the table is the opportunity that we have for them to come back to the table for us to get an agreement -- and the sooner the better.”
Stocks tumbled in the wake of Trump’s tweet, with the S&P 500 Index sliding 1.4% Tuesday. They’ve since rebounded, driven in part by optimism that stimulus will be coming at some point, either through a bipartisan deal, or after a Democratic sweep in the Nov. 3 election -- which polls suggest is increasingly possible.
Trump changed course soon after his Tuesday tweet ordering an end to talks until after he wins the election and blaming Pelosi of not negotiating in good faith. That move had baffled Trump’s allies and created the political risk he’d be blamed entirely for the economic fallout. On Thursday, he told Fox Business that talks on a stimulus plan are now “starting to work out.”
Pelosi said she remains open to separate airline aid legislation. “I have made the case to my colleagues that this is a special case,” Pelosi said on Bloomberg TV.
But she said that the country needs a comprehensive plan that would help stem the coronavirus outbreak, and the airline package would have to be advanced in the “context” of a broader bill.
She is scheduled to have another round of talks by phone with Mnuchin on Thursday.
Without additional aid, American Airlines Group Inc. will cut more flights in addition to jobs, said Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker. The carrier began implementing 19,000 layoffs last week.
“There will absolutely be discontinuation of service to small communities and there will be much less service to larger communities,” Parker said Thursday in an interview with CNBC.
An S&P 500 gauge of airline stocks erased gains on the news of Pelosi’s remarks, before rebounding later in Thursday’s session.
Despite Pelosi’s stance, Trump on Thursday claimed that multiple separate measures, including $1,200 individual checks, are on the table.
“We started talking again. And we’re talking about airlines and we’re talking about a bigger deal than airlines,” Trump said in the Fox Business interview. “We’re talking about a deal with $1,200 per person, we’re talking about other things.”
Speaking in Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the two sides should continue to try to negotiate a deal, but there are “vast differences about how much we should spend.”
“The speaker insists on an outrageous amount of money” McConnell said, adding that there are members of his GOP majority that think enough has been done already. “Hopefully there will be a way forward soon.”
The comments mark a shift for McConnell, who earlier this week said he supported Trump’s decision to call off talks.
The Democratic plan calls for $2.2 trillion in spending, while Mnuchin has offered $1.6 trillion. The administration’s figure is higher than what many Senate Republicans have said they could support.
Even if there were a breakthrough in Pelosi’s talks with Mnuchin, negotiations among House Democrats and the Senate’s calendar make it unlikely that a stand-alone bill to help airlines -- which are already hemorrhaging tens of thousands of jobs -- will reach the president’s desk before the end of October.
While a measure could pass quickly if no lawmaker in either chamber objects, that’s unlikely to happen. Two Republican senators, Pat Toomey and Mike Lee, said in a statement Thursday that they oppose a bailout for the airline industry without some protections for taxpayers and the ability to make changes to the legislation.
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