Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is facing pressure from Republicans to act as he confronts the first major crisis under his leadership, the worsening supply chain crunch. Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, South Bend, Ind. mayor, address the National Action Network (NAN) convention, Thursday April 4, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Buttigieg under pressure from GOP as supply chain problems worsen

Zachary Halaschak October 14, 07:00 AM October 14, 07:00 AM

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is facing pressure from Republicans to act as he confronts the first major crisis under his leadership, the worsening supply chain crunch.

Buttigieg, who has been working to shore up support for President Joe Biden’s massive infrastructure spending packages, is facing increased scrutiny about how to handle delays and backlogs caused by the country’s frayed supply chains as the holiday season fast approaches.

“Pete Buttigieg was completely unqualified to serve as Secretary of Transportation. But Biden still picked him,” said Sen. Tom Cotton on Twitter earlier this week. “Now, Pete is absent during a transportation crisis that is hurting working-class Americans.”

The Arkansas Republican accused Biden of only picking Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, to lead the DOT because he threw his weight behind Biden’s bid for the presidency after unsuccessfully challenging him in the 2020 Democratic primaries.

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Cotton shared an op-ed by conservative opinion columnist Joe Concha, published this week in The Hill, attacking Buttigieg for lacking the qualifications needed to stem the growing problems with the U.S. supply chain, which has been stretched thin as ports endure massive congestion and companies struggle with labor issues.

Sen. Rick Scott is calling for Buttigieg, along with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, to testify before a Senate committee, a spokeswoman for the Florida Republican told the Washington Examiner on Tuesday.

Republicans have lashed the administration and the Department of Transportation for focusing more on passing his multitrillion-dollar infrastructure and social spending legislation rather than addressing the supply crisis head-on.

“There is more that the Department of Transportation can and should be doing to help address ongoing supply chain issues related to the pandemic,” Sen. Cynthia Lummis, a member of the Senate’s Transportation Committee, said in a statement to the Washington Examiner.

“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,” she added.

Some GOP pundits have pointed out that there have been several news stories dedicated to Buttigieg and his husband’s two newborn children and a dearth of stories devoted to his work on the supply chain issues plaguing the country.

“I don’t hear him talking about this, and I don’t hear the media asking him — the mainstream media, the D.C. media — quizzing him on this very much,” said former GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, who is now a Fox News host, during a recent appearance on his show.

Buttigieg recaptured headlines related to supply chain issues on Wednesday, though, after the administration announced that it had secured a series of commitments from private-sector players to help improve the U.S. supply chain.

The White House convened a meeting with several representatives from the country’s top transportation and shipping unions, officials from major corporations, and port envoys to discuss how to alleviate the strain. The administration also announced that the Port of Los Angeles, mired in delays and backlogs, will begin operating on a 24/7 basis.

“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,” Buttigieg told CNN on Wednesday. He added that major companies like FedEx and UPS have agreed to begin scaling up their operations.

Rep. Kevin Brady, the ranking member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, said on Wednesday afternoon that despite this week’s overtures, he thinks that the administration has been “months late and more than a dollar short” on addressing supply chain snarls. He said the White House has been in “denial” on the issue.

“We’ve heard a lot of talk and a lot of formation of task forces but nothing concrete to address this,” the Texas Republican said in response to a question from the Washington Examiner about what more Buttigieg and the DOT should do to confront the supply chain crisis.

Brady accused the administration of exacerbating labor shortages in the U.S. and thus the country’s ability to get goods and products into homes efficiently. He pointed to a looming vaccination mandate for companies with more than 100 employees as something that could make the supply chain matter even worse and result in slowed deliveries and higher prices.

“My first advice to Secretary Buttigieg is stop making it worse and tackle the real issues,” Brady said.

Rep. Carlos Gimenez, a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, also knocked the administration for its vaccine mandate and argued that it will create even “greater hardship” in repairing the supply chain before the holidays. He said he has spoken to package carriers who have had “major concerns” about the mandate and its potential to hold back the labor force at a time when more workers are most needed.

“They’re part of the creation of the crisis,” the Florida Republican said of the administration during a phone call with the Washington Examiner. “This administration is unwilling or incapable of admitting mistakes and reversing course when facts hit them in the face.”

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Buttigieg is also dealing with travel issues. Last weekend, Southwest Airlines faced thousands of canceled flights and delays, which it attributed to weather and traffic control issues. GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee hit at him and the administration for its handling of the situation, which some fear could be replicated during the crush of holiday travel because of the federal vaccine mandate.

“Hundreds of passengers are scrambling due to the ramifications of the White House’s threat to implement overreaching vaccine mandates,” Blackburn said in a statement to the Washington Examiner. “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.”

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