The United States has been facing a supply chain crisis for months, and things are reaching a head as companies are warning Americans that Christmas could be tough this year.
The issue is part of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg's portfolio, yet, as Politico reported Thursday, the secretary "has been MIA" as the crisis has grown.
Turns out, Buttigieg has been out of the office on paternity leave since mid-August.
What's that now?
Supply shortages and rising prices are threatening the U.S. economy, and analysts are warning that the Christmas season could be significantly hampered.
President Joe Biden this week announced a deal with officials and union leaders and workers in Los Angeles to try to ease supply chain disruptions by addressing the bottleneck of container ships off the coast of California that is plaguing operations. The deal will keep L.A. ports open 24/7, but experts told Reuters this week that the deal is too little, too late to fix the issue by Christmas.
The person who is supposed to be dealing with the situation — Secretary Buttigieg — has been missing in action. And Politico took note:
While U.S. ports faced anchor-to-anchor traffic and Congress nearly melted down over the president's infrastructure bill in recent weeks, the usually omnipresent Transportation secretary was lying low.
One of the White House's go-to communicators didn't appear on TV. He was absent on Capitol Hill during the negotiations over the bill he had been previously helping sell to different members of Congress. Conservative critics tried (unsuccessfully) to get #WheresPete to trend and Fox News ran a story on October 4 with the headline: “Buttigieg quiet on growing port congestion as shipping concerns build ahead of holidays."
Where has he been? Turns out that he has been on paid paternity leave since the middle of August "to spend time with his husband, Chasten, and their two newborn babies," Politico reported, and the White House didn't previously announce it.
"For the first four weeks, he was mostly offline except for major agency decisions and matters that could not be delegated," a Transportation Department spokesman told the outlet. “He has been ramping up activities since then."
Hot Air's Ed Morrissey pointed out that this was a strange move for someone in a Cabinet post.
"Since when have Cabinet secretaries taken months off at a time for parental leave?" Morrissey asked. "Since now, apparently, even when crises brew within their portfolio. After all, Cabinet officials do not formally fall under the federal family leave system, and for good reason. Those positions are considered too critical for the operation of government to mandate such lengthy absences."
Politico noted that historically Cabinet secretaries have worked to come back sooner. For example, the outlet noted, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro was off for about a week after his child was born.
The reason Buttigieg's leave stands out as unusual is because, as Morrissey noted, Cabinet secretaries are not eligible for federal paid family leave benefits.
According to the Office of Personnel Management, “Individuals in the executive branch who are appointed by the President to positions in the Executive Schedule are not covered by the leave system. They do not earn leave and serve at the pleasure of the President," Politico said. But, OPM told the outlet, "the President can choose to allow him to take time off."
Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton has been on Buttigieg's case during the crisis and ripped the secretary on Twitter this week, writing, "Pete Buttigieg was completely unqualified to serve as Secretary of Transportation. But Biden still picked him. Now, Pete is absent during a transportation crisis that is hurting working-class Americans."
Cotton went on Fox News on Thursday night to continue his attack on Buttigieg and the administration's handling of the crisis.
"Who's going to save Christmas for Americans? Pete Buttigieg?" the senator asked. "I mean, please. Pete Buttigieg couldn't organize a one-car funeral. He's not going to organize our nation's ports and roads and highways and airports."
Tom Cotton: Pete Buttigieg couldn't organize a one car funeral www.youtube.com