Fox News’ Baier presses Buttigieg on supply chain crunch after reports he was on paternity leave for weeks

Fox News anchor Bret Baier pressured Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to explain what he and the administration are doing to solve a burgeoning supply chain crisis and clear a bottleneck of more than 100 cargo ships waiting outside major U.S. ports to be offloaded as store shelves go bare and product shortages are being forecast for the coming holiday season.

The interview also comes amid reports that Buttigieg has been out of his office since mid-August on paternity leave after he and his husband adopted twin newborns, even as the crisis worsened.

In his interview, Baier noted that President Biden announced on Wednesday that the Port of Los Angeles will move to a 24/7 schedule, adding an extra 60 hours per week in order to facilitate more offloading of vessels anchored in the harbor. But, he asked the transportation secretary: “Is it too little, too late?”

“The president said this has the potential to be a game-changer,” Buttigieg responded. “It’s going to have to be part of a number of steps.”

He went on to note that there are also problems with ports coordinating with each other while he urged them to share more data to facilitate faster distribution of goods to the country.


(Video: Fox News)

After the anchor pressed Buttigieg over whether administration officials could have or should have anticipated the supply crunch, Buttigieg said officials did see it coming and as such put in place measures aimed at heightening the urgency of the situation. He also said that bolstering such efforts will include passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill sitting idle in Congress that would spend $17 billion on U.S. port facilities.

That led Baier to ask Buttigieg why that measure has yet to be passed in the Democrat-controlled Congress while members instead debate a highly controversial $3.5 trillion social spending package that, at present, has no chance of passing due to the opposition of Democratic moderates.

“We very much push for this infrastructure bill. I’ve worked hard on it. The president has worked hard on it. And the same is true for the Build Back Better agenda – things that most Americans agree on,” he said of the latter measure.

“Part of the reason we are where we are is that the president successfully brought this economy out of the teeth of a recession,” he said in response to reports that the administration is predicting many items may not be available to all Americans during the coming holiday season because of the supply chain backlog, which experts have blamed, in large part, on COVID-19 pandemic-related work stoppages and disruptions over the past several months.

“People are buying more than ever before, we’re seeing record goods coming through our ports. The demand is there, which is great news. It represents a policy success. Now we’ve got to make sure those supply chains are there to support,” he continued.

“So, you’re saying that’s a high-class problem?” Baier quizzed.

“What I’m saying is that we are better off because the economy is growing,” Buttigieg said. “And the economy is growing thanks to the leadership of this president.”

Buttigieg and the administration faced criticism this week after reports revealed that the secretary was largely out of pocket for the past couple of months on paternity leave, even as the supply crisis got worse.

“For the first four weeks, he was mostly offline except for major agency decisions and matters that could not be delegated,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation on Friday. “He has been ramping up activities since then.”

As he does, Buttigieg will “continue to take some time over the coming weeks to support his husband and take care of his new children,” Politico reported.

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