Stand-alone bill to provide relief for airlines blocked on House floor
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) attempted to pass a stand-alone bill that would give relief to airlines on the House floor Friday.
The attempt was unsuccessful after the Oregon congressman was denied a request for unanimous consent, which would preclude the need for members to participate in a recorded vote. His bill would extend the airline Payroll Support Program (PSP) by six months.
“The Republican minority killed this legislation, plain and simple. If they had just agreed, tens of thousands of workers for the airlines — flight attendants, they don’t get paid a heck of a lot of money, pilots, yeah they do well, mechanics, gate agents — tens of thousands of those people have been furlough as of yesterday,” DeFazio said on the House floor.
PSP, which allocated $25 billion in aid for airlines, was part of the massive $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in March. As a condition for accepting the relief, it prohibited airlines from laying off employees until Oct. 1.
“They’ve lost their jobs, they’ve lost their health care, some of them are going to lose their homes. They don’t know how they’re going to make ends meet, feed their kids or do anything else, all because the Republicans in the House of Representatives would not agree and the Republicans in the Senate will not agree to a larger package, which contains these provisions. These are vital provisions, they’re time sensitive,” DeFazio said.
The House passed another $2.2 trillion coronavirus aid package on Thursday that has been rejected by Republicans in the Senate and White House. It included $25 billion to extend the PSP.
“I’m tired of bureaucracy around here. It’s time to do real things for the American people and this is real, these peoples’ lives are at stake,” DeFazio said, in a heated response to his time being up on the floor.
Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.), who was presiding over the House, said DeFazio’s request could not be entertained because it was not cleared by leadership from both sides of the aisle.
Earlier on Friday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told airlines to hold off on the furloughs because Congress would either pass DeFazio’s stand-alone legislation or relief would come in the form of a negotiated bill.
Following the blockage of DeFazio’s bill on the floor, Pelosi called Republicans’ objection to his legislation disappointing.
“Again and again, Democrats offer legislation to save lives and livelihoods, only to be met by more Republican obstruction. Either Republicans are not serious about meeting the staggering health and economic challenge facing our nation, or they do not care,” she said in a statement.
“Democrats will continue our efforts to provide direly-needed relief for airline workers.”
A House GOP aide said the Republicans are still waiting for details on the DeFazio bill and pointed to a bill they support that was introduced by Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-V.I.) and Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio), which would also provide support for air carrier workers.
“This is incompetent and sloppy process,” the aide said. “Once again Democrats are using partisan gimmicks rather than bipartisan solutions.”
On Wednesday, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker told employees that the process of furloughing 19,000 employees has started, and United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told employees they are moving forward with furloughing about 13,000.
Both CEOs, though, left the door open to reversing the furlough process if a deal is reached in the coming days.
Industry group Airlines for America (A4A) thanked DeFazio for his continuing efforts to save these airline jobs in a statement on Friday.
“We understand that negotiations are continuing. We therefore implore members of Congress and the Administration to work swiftly to reach agreement and extend PSP. Time already ran out, but several U.S. airlines have said that they may be able to turn back the clock and reinstate employees IF they receive direct payroll assistance from the federal government within a matter of days,” A4A CEO Nicholas Calio said in a statement.