Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg “is at work,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki insisted Tuesday before she cut off a reporter who pressed her about his two-month paternity leave amid the nation’s mounting supply chain crisis.
Psaki did not say if Buttigieg ended his leave, but told Newsmax reporter Emerald Robinson, “I was on a conference call with him this morning.”
Robinson had asked at the daily White House press briefing if it was time for Buttigieg to “get back on the bicycle” — his preferred mode of transportation — amid growing shipping delays, and pressed Psaki about whether “he’s in the department now, every day?”
Psaki deflected on Buttigieg’s current workload — or whether his leave was over — and said, “I think what you’re getting at here is this question about whether men, parents, women should have paternity and maternity leave. And the answer is absolutely yes.”
She then cut off Robinson when the reporter tried to ask another question.
Earlier in the briefing, Psaki laughed off the supply chain crunch that’s seen a massive backlog of shipping containers at ports — calling it “the tragedy of the treadmill,” referring to a luxury item that might be running late.
A White House economics official, Liz Reynolds, on Monday used similar messaging, telling gubernatorial staffers, “You won’t be able to get the jacket in 15 colors, but you will be able to get the jacket.”
Buttigieg’s leave reportedly began in mid-August to care for newborn twins. He is eligible for 12 weeks of leave — meaning until mid-November if he so chooses. Throughout his leave, Buttigieg continued to do TV interviews.
Critics say Biden bears some blame for the crisis here because he boosted consumer demand with generous COVID-19 stimulus funds, which contributed to high inflation and a record number of people quitting their jobs, leading to a record number of job openings, including in the trucking industry, which is key aspect of the supply chain bottleneck.
Biden last week praised his “port envoy” John Porcari for doing a “heck of job” handling the issue — twice calling Porcari, who was a runner up for Buttigieg’s job, by the wrong first name.