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Republicans love the COVID-19 stimulus, but not the airline payouts

Most conservative voters approve of the historic $2 trillion stimulus bill, but the least popular item is the $58 billion payout to the airline industry, a poll finds.

Republicans love the COVID-19 stimulus, but not the airline payouts
[Photo: Louis Velazquez/Unsplash; Krzysztof Kowalik/Unsplash]

Most conservative voters approve of the historic $2 trillion stimulus bill signed into law late last week, a report from research firm Morning Consult finds.

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In a joint Morning Consult-Politico poll, 86% of conservatives and 87% of Republicans approved of the package, which is on par with an 88% approval rating from Democrats. This near-universal support for the stimulus follows weeks of partisan squabbling in Washington as the bill worked its way through Congress.

[Image: courtesy of Morning Consult]
Republicans’ response to the stimulus is uncharacteristic, given that small spending and small government are among the party’s central tenets. In the wake of 2008’s Great Recession, efforts to restore the economy from both President Bush, whose $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program bailed out Wall Street, and President Obama, whose $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act bailed out Main Street, met with strong resistance from conservatives. But in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that has crippled much of the economy, it seems the party is giving its elected officials a pass, notes Morning Consult.

So what’s different this time? Grover Norquist, president of conservative activist group Americans for Tax Reform, told the firm that unlike a decade ago, when excessive risk-taking from big banks toppled the economy, our current crisis was caused by factors less within our control, as the need for Americans to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19 has disrupted a previously booming market.

“There isn’t a bad guy—it’s a virus,” he said.

A breakdown of the stimulus bill’s provisions found that among Republicans, the most popular items include funding for healthcare providers, food assistance programs, and the Department of Defense—all with over 80% approval ratings.

The least popular item, among both Republicans and all voters, is the $58 billion payout to the airline industry.

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But voters might not need to worry, because that payout has hit a snag. While the U.S. government has been weighing the option to take stakes in airlines in exchange for funding, a Wednesday letter from flight attendants to the Department of the Treasury, cited by the Wall Street Journal, says this may dissuade airlines from accepting the help.

Somehow making airlines even less popular, unions representing flight attendants at United, American, and Southwest argued that if airlines are required to give up stakes, they might refuse—forfeiting grants meant for payroll, which would lead to layoffs. “This effectively renders the payroll grants a poison pill that will cost us our jobs,” wrote union leaders, who urged the government to reconsider the stakes.

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