Republicans in the House and Senate are demanding Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg take action as the massive supply-chain breakdown across the country threatens the timely delivery of everyday consumer goods and holiday gifts.
Buttigieg, a former Democratic presidential candidate and McKinsey consultant, was appointed to the secretary role early in the administration by President Biden, despite his lack of experience in the field.
As Congress internally battles over when and how to pass a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, the U.S. is seeing massive backlogs and delays in supply chains and some have questioned whether Buttigieg’s lack of experience will worsen the situation.
“Pete Buttigieg was completely unqualified to serve as Secretary of Transportation,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) tweeted Monday. “Now, Pete is absent during a transportation crisis that is hurting working-class Americans.”
On Wednesday, Cotton followed up on his critique of the secretary, claiming he couldn’t “organize a one-car funeral.”
“At the same time, the White House is saying that you’re probably not going to get everything you want for Christmas. Well, who’s gonna save Christmas for Americans? Pete Buttigieg? I mean, please. Pete Buttigieg couldn’t organize a one-car funeral. He’s not going to organize our nation’s ports and railroads and highways and airports,” Cotton told “Fox News Primetime.”
As nearly 100 large ships have remained near the Los Angeles coast for more than a month waiting to unload goods, Biden on Wednesday announced that the Port of Los Angeles would move to a 24/7 work schedule following the emergency example of the nearby Port of Long Beach, which expanded hours three weeks ago to alleviate the mounting supply chain crunch. The president praised his “port envoy” John Porcari as he made the announcement.
“I especially want to thank Joe Porcari. And I think Joe’s done one heck of a job, my special envoy specifically on ports, who’s been working this issue with all the stakeholders for the past several weeks,” Biden said, twice mangling his trusted envoy’s name in the White House East Room.
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) accused the administration of being “months late and more than a dollar short” in the supply chain crisis, telling the Washington Examiner that the White House is in “denial.”
“We’ve heard a lot of talk and a lot of formation of task forces but nothing concrete to address this,” he said, later giving advice to Buttigieg to “stop making it worse and tackle the real issues.”
Some Republicans have blamed the administration for focusing too much on passing the president’s Build Back Better agenda rather than handling the supply chain crisis directly.
Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) told the Examiner that there “is more that the Department of Transportation can and should be doing to help address ongoing supply chain issues related to the pandemic.”
“We’re well over a year into this, and I’m concerned that the Biden administration seems more focused on pushing Congress to massively expand the federal bureaucracy rather than using their existing authorities to help American businesses and consumers get back to normal.”
On Wednesday, Buttigieg defended the administration’s efforts, blaming the reliance on supply chains “built generations ago.”
“It’s one of the reasons why this entire year we have been talking about and working on infrastructure and are eager to see Congress to act to get this infrastructure deal through,” he told CNN, later adding, “This is a largely private-sector system, and a global one at that, but there are a lot of steps that we can take as an administration, as an honest broker.”
At the same time, the workforce is facing another hardship with the administration’s vaccine mandate, as some workers have been forced to quit or have been fired from their jobs after not getting vaccinated.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) accused Buttigieg of being absent in the crisis, as Southwest Airlines was forced to cancel thousands of flights over the weekend, citing weather and traffic control issues.
“Hundreds of passengers are scrambling due to the ramifications of the White House’s threat to implement overreaching vaccine mandates,” Blackburn told the Examiner, blaming the cancelations on the lack of manpower. “Amid this air travel crisis, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is noticeably absent. It’s time for the Biden administration to face the consequences of their radical decision making.”
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) has called for Buttigieg and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to testify before a Senate committee.