Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tried to distance his department’s decision-making from the supply crisis on CNBC’s Squawk Box Wednesday, saying that supply chain issues “will persist as long as this pandemic continues.”
“I mean, if a shoe factory closes in Vietnam in September for a COVID outbreak, you’re going to see the effect of that at the mall in December or January,” he said.
Buttigieg did insist that his department has made moves in the past week to combat the crisis.
“Now, last week, at the White House, I was with the leadership of places like Walmart, Target, the Home Depot, talking about their commitments to make sure that inventory gets to the shelves. We’re also talking with the key ground logistics companies.”
Buttigieg’s office told Politico last week that the secretary had been on paternity leave since mid-August. His absence had not been previously reported. Now that Buttigieg is back, he has made a multitude of media appearances to speak out about the supply chain problems as well as to push back on criticism for his decision to take paternity leave.
The White House announced last week that the port of Los Angeles would open for 24 hours a day in an effort to solve the logjam of cargo ships. Early reports, however, have shown that the change may not be having much impact. The Wall Street Journal reported that the head of the Port of Los Angeles said he doesn’t know how quickly they can shift to 24/7 operations.
Douglas Kent, an executive vice president of a nonprofit for supply chain management, added that expanding port operating hours “is not going to be the silver bullet.”
This week, the number of cargo ships waiting outside of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach reached an all time high.
On Tuesday, a reporter from Newsmax asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki about Buttigieg’s paternity leave. She pushed back against any criticism, saying: “Just to be clear, we are quite confident in the capabilities, the talents of the civil servants, the leadership at the Department of Transportation, just as we are at companies across the country where women, men take maternity and paternity leave.”
Psaki also joked about the supply-chain crisis, sighing as she said, “The tragedy of the treadmill that’s delayed.”