Pelosi: No standalone help for airlines without broader COVID-19 aid

Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that Democrats will not accept a piecemeal approach to coronavirus relief that benefits only a sliver of suffering Americans without assurances from the White House that President Trump will support a much larger comprehensive aid package.

“The comment I made to the administration last night was: We’re happy to review what that standalone bill would look like as part of a bigger bill — if there is a bigger bill,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. “But there is no standalone bill.”

Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been in talks as recently as Wednesday evening over the prospects of more aid for the embattled airlines, which have furloughed tens of thousands of employees since Oct. 1. Those talks — combined with the Democrats’ failed attempt last week to pass $25 billion in airline relief — created impressions that Pelosi was ready to carve out a portion of the Democrats’ $2.2 trillion relief package and move that piece on its own.

The Speaker said she and Mnuchin were indeed focused on the airlines but disputed the notion that such a bill was ever going to move by itself.

“We were talking about a single bill, a standalone bill, and the particulars within a singular bill,” she said. “So the question is: If there were to be a standalone bill, what does that look like? And the only point about negotiations is: Ain’t gonna be no standalone bill unless there’s a bigger bill. And it could be part of that, or it could be in addition to it.”

Hours earlier, Trump had muddled the stimulus debate once again during an appearance on Fox Business, where he said the sides are now negotiating a “bigger” deal beyond another airline bailout.

“They were trying to get things and we were trying to get things and it wasn’t going anywhere. I shut it down. I don’t want to play games,” Trump said in the phone interview with host Maria Bartiromo.

“And then we reopened and I see the markets are doing well, but I think we have a really good chance of doing something.”

That assessment marked a reversal from two days earlier when Trump announced an end to the stimulus talks, which was itself an about-face from his comments on Saturday urging both sides to come together and finalize a comprehensive relief package that he could sign before the Nov. 3 elections.

Trump’s erratic messaging surrounding the stimulus debate has increasingly frustrated Republicans, particularly those lawmakers facing tough reelection contests next month.

Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke by phone Wednesday morning, and again Wednesday evening, when the focus was on the airlines. The pair is expected to speak again on Thursday.

The sides appear to remain far apart in both the size and scope of another round of coronavirus relief. Democrats last week passed the $2.2 trillion package, which was rejected by Republicans as too large. Mnuchin has offered a $1.6 trillion counter-proposal, which Democrats say is too small.

Pelosi said Thursday that a major sticking point remains specific language within the proposal designed to ensure that the administration spends the funds where Congress intended.

“We’ve been working very hard on language, because if you don’t have the language you’re just giving them a blank check to do what they have done, which is ignore crushing the virus,” she said.

Pelosi said she’s “hopeful” the sides can reach an elusive agreement in the coming days, but left it to the White House to respond to the Democrats’ latest language.

“We’ve told the White House, we’re at the table, we’re at the table,” she said. “We want to continue the conversation; we’ve made some progress; we’re exchanging language. So we’ll see how they come back.”

Tags Coronavirus coronavirus pandemic COVID-19 COVID-19 aid Donald Trump Maria Bartiromo Nancy Pelosi Steven Mnuchin
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