Democrats in the Senate are proposing their own $750 billion package, which prioritizes workers and contains nary a mention of the airline industry.
“If we are going to follow up the House bill with another major economic stimulus package, which we must, our major focus cannot be based on bailing out airlines, cruises and other industries,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Tuesday morning.
Democrats in both chambers have also already begun to broadcast that they will look to emphasize their own priorities, such as combating climate change, in any money for airlines.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) was the first to come out and say that any financial assistance for airlines should have “major strings attached.”
He called for new rules to prevent consumer abuses, labor protections for pilots, flight attendants and airline workers, special consideration for smaller regional carriers and strategies and targets aimed at reducing airlines’ carbon footprint.
“As our next coronavirus stimulus package is developed, I will demand these conditions be met before supporting any airline bailout,” Markey said.
He and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are working on language that would address airline fees, seat sizes and safety issues, Blumenthal said.
“There should be no blank check,” Blumenthal told POLITICO. “There are simple, common-sense safety and consumer protection steps that we can take.”
Off the Hill, Democrats are arguing that airlines shouldn’t be given blanket rescue funding after deciding in recent years to spend billions on stock buybacks and neglecting to build up rainy day funds.
Rohit Chopra, a Democratic commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission, said that airlines shouldn’t get a bailout with “no strings attached,” calling for helping workers first, stopping buybacks and bonuses and restoring passenger protections.