In a stunning, but baffling, reversal, President Donald Trump on Tuesday called for aid to the airline industry in a late-night tweet - just hours after he told his negotiators to halt all talks with Democratic leadership on a new stimulus package.
It was a bit of a shocker, albeit a happy one for airlines, coming just seven hours after the President told Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to walk away from the table with Democratic leadership, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
The airlines have already begun the furlough process, which they were restricted from doing for six months, until Oct. 1, as per provisions of the initial CARES Act stimulus package passed in March. Some 30,000 employees were laid off in the last week, mostly by United and American airlines. Although both said that if a second round of aid was made available, they would reinstate any worker who was furloughed.
The travel industry was dismayed on Tuesday to learn that Trump had ended the talks, even though the President has been a vocal supporter of an extension of the aid and the Payroll Support Program for airlines.
Whether this buoys their spirits remains to be seen given that Congress still has to come back to the table to negotiate again. Both sides are looking to get $28 billion for the airlines, but can't seem to come to an agreement on the overall package, said to be between $1.6 trillion and $2 trillion.
Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Peter DeFazio (D-OR) requested unanimous consent for his stand-alone bipartisan bill last Friday to extend the PSP, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said House Republicans blocked its consideration.
"This truly is unprecedented," Nick Calio, CEO of Airlines for America, a lobbying group that represents all major U.S. airlines, said in an interview with ABC News. "Time already ran out for U.S. airlines and many of our employees, yet there is a glimmer of hope that our leaders in Washington will act and save these jobs before it's too late to turn back the clock."
"We need to stay focused," Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said in a statement late Tuesday. "Millions of lives count on us staying focused. Congress must act."
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