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America's New War: Washington Tries To Save Airline Industry

Aired September 19, 2001 - 05:11   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, leaders in Washington have been hard at work on a plan to keep the crippled airline industry aloft.

CNN White House correspondent Kelly Wallace checks in right now.

Morning, Kelly. What's the latest? We know that President Bush has been asking for a sufficient bailout package. Is what's on the table right now all we can expect to come from Washington, or what?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems that way, Leon. President Bush has a meeting scheduled later this afternoon with House and Senate congressional leaders there. They are likely to come up with and finalize an agreement to try to bail out the struggling industry.

Now, as Carol was mentioning, you know, estimates vary from 200 to $300 million a day that the airline industry losing since those September 11th terrorist attacks.

The big concern on the part of the Bush Administration -- senior officials saying that the industry was struggling financially even before the deadly terrorist spree on September 11th, and so that the Administration and the president would only support a package that would compensate the industry for the losses sustained since last Tuesday, and not for problems suffered before then.

So it looks like -- according to congressional and senior Administration official sources -- that the deal is likely to be about $15 billion. Some of that money will be direct cash payments, and some loan guarantees.

Again, we should get more word when the president -- meeting with congressional leaders later today -- and the hope is that a bill can get to the House floor as early as Friday.

Now, also on the money front, President Bush using his presidential pen to sign a bill into law providing $40 billion in emergency aid to New York, to the Pentagon, to Virginia, and to Pennsylvania -- this money to help with search-and-rescue and rebuilding efforts, and also to cover the costs of the investigation into, again, the deadliest terrorism we have seen on U.S. soil.

And Leon, the president using his presidential pen once again yesterday. He also signed a congressional resolution into law -- that resolution giving him the authority to use force to retaliate for last week's attacks. We know the president likely to meet with his national security team again today to continue discussing military options.

Also, lots of diplomacy -- face-to-face diplomacy. He met yesterday with the French president, Jacques Chirac. He has meeting scheduled today with the president of Indonesia, as well as the foreign ministers of Germany and Russia.

Leon, back to you.

HARRIS: All right, Kelly. But quickly, before I let you go, just -- I'm finding it fairly interesting to see how these two different bills that the president has been considering are being treated differently, between the airlines and the package for the aid to New York. The New York aid package, he only asked for $20 billion, and he actually got twice what he asked for, but with the airlines, they're not going over the line at all to give any extra there.

WALLACE: The main reason is, I think is exactly what senior Administration officials were saying, which is that this industry happened to be in trouble -- financial trouble -- even before the September 11th terrorism spree. So there is a concern that lawmakers do not want to sort of step forward and have the federal government and Congress sort of prop up an industry that may have been suffering based on management problems or some business decisions.

So clearly that's the issue here. They want to make sure -- at least from the White House -- that they are just covering the problems that surfaced during those days when the airports were closed and because of consumers concerned about air safety -- not for management decision that may have preceded last week's attacks.

Leon.

HARRIS: All right.

Thank you very much, Kelly Wallace, in Washington. We'll check back with you later on.

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