The White House jumped to the defense of Pete Buttigieg after a report broke that the Transportation secretary has been on paid paternity leave since mid-August, as his department comes under intense scrutiny for supply chain issues.
Federal employees are offered up to 12 weeks’ paid parental leave, though Cabinet secretaries are not included in that, meaning President Biden had to sign off on the leave.
Buttigieg announced on Sept. 4 that he and his husband Chasten had adopted twins.
‘Proud to work in an Administration that is fighting to make paid leave a reality for everyone, and with people like @SecretaryPete who are role models on the importance of paid leave for new parents,’ press secretary Jen Psaki wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Politico on Thursday revealed Buttigieg, 39, went on paternity leave in August and September after he and husband Chasten adopted twins Penelope Rose and Joseph August Buttigieg.
A spokesman for the Department of Transportation said: ‘For the first four weeks, he was mostly offline except for major agency decisions and matters that could not be delegated.
‘He has been ramping up activities since then.’
The spokesman added that that Buttigieg will ‘continue to take some time over the coming weeks to support his husband and take care of his new children.’
Buttigieg attended a meeting with Biden, business leaders and teamsters on Wednesday to work out a solution for supply chain bottlenecks.
The belated announcement of the leave drew condemnation from some Republicans.
Buttigieg and his husband Chasten (left) announced on September 4 that they adopted twins, Penelope and Joseph
In the past, some Cabinet secretaries have chosen to come back sooner. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro took ‘about a week or so’ when his child was born, his spokesperson told Politico.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson mocked Buttigieg for taking leave blockages in ports and a truck driver crisis have caused major issues in the supply chain, leaving shelves empty and causing shipping coasts to soar.
‘Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child – paternity leave, they call it – trying to figure out how to breastfeed. No word on how that went.’
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., complained that Buttigieg was ‘sitting at home.’
‘We’re in the middle of a transportation crisis, and Pete Buttigieg is sitting at home. Meanwhile, cargo boats are unable to dock and shelves are sitting empty. Pete needs to either get back to work or leave the Department of Transportation. It’s time to put American families first,’ she told Breitbart.
Attkisson posted photos of rows of empty shelves
When the chips are down: An empty snack aisle at a grocery store
‘Transportation Secretary Buttigieg is on leave during a huge supply chain crisis. Secretary of State Blinken was on vacation while Afghanistan fell. Border Czar VP Harris is in hiding as the border is in chaos. This entire administration is missing in action — including Biden!’ Rep. Jody Hice, R-Texas, wrote on Twitter.
‘Every parent deserves paternity leave, including @SecretaryPete. That should not be controversial,’ Democratic Illinois Rep. Marie Newman wrote on Twitter.
‘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.’
It’s not clear if he knew the secretary was on paternity leave or not, as the report publicizing the matter dropped Thursday.
Twitter users had mixed reactions, though many were critical of the timing.
‘I think paternity leave is good. My husband will take 3-6 weeks depending on when I give birth next month. But 2 months in the middle of a national crisis you should be handling, when you have no actual medical recovery, is everything wrong with our government,’ Jessica O’Donnell wrote.
‘Isn’t the other uncomfortable fact for the administration that Buttigieg has been out on paternity leave for two months, _and no one noticed?_’ NPR correspondent Jim Geraghty wrote on Twitter.
‘The thing about paternity leave is there isn’t much for dad to do when the baby is a newborn, especially if mom is breastfeeding. His main role is to take care of mom as she recovers but of course that doesn’t apply to Buttigieg so I’m not sure why he needs paternity leave at all,’ wrote conservative commentator Matt Walsh.
‘People are saying dad needs paternity leave for ‘bonding time.’ Sure, a week or something is fine. But the baby isn’t going to bond with dad much until he’s a little older. And we shouldn’t be paying cabinet secretaries to stay home for two months for ‘bonding time’ anyway.’
Others thought the criticism was directed at Buttigieg’s sexuality.
”Paternity leave is bad when it’s a gay Biden official’ is a pretty fricking cringe & terrible take from supposedly pro-family tradcons, to be honest,’ wrote FEE contributor Brad Polumbo.
‘Paternity leave isn’t bad, whether the person taking it is gay or straight. The problem here, is that the public wasn’t informed of this for 2 months — we have multiple transportation crises going on, and it would be nice to hear from the USDOT leader about the ports for example,’ Christina Pushaw, press secretary for Gov. Ron DeSantis, shot back.
‘The professional thing to do would have been for USDOT to announce in August that Buttigieg would be on paternity leave until (specific date). And his deputies should be front and center during this time; continuity is important in an agency.’
Buttigieg said he is ‘over the moon’ to be a dad, but it is ‘the most demanding thing’ he has ever done.
‘It’s been wonderful. It’s everything people tell you to expect and more,’ Buttigieg, said on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ last week. ‘I think the biggest thing that’s surprised me is just how much joy there is even sometimes in the hard parts.’
He added, ‘Don’t get me wrong — it’s the most demanding thing I think I’ve ever done, that Chasten and I have ever taken on, but it’s just amazing.’
Before becoming a father, Buttigieg said he ‘used to think of 5 a.m. as early.’
‘Now I think of it as nap time if I’m lucky,’ Buttigieg said. ‘And yet, I catch myself grinning half the time… We’re just over the moon.’
Meanwhile, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., is calling on Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to testify before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, according to a Thursday report.
‘There is more that the Department of Transportation can and should be doing to help address ongoing supply chain issues related to the pandemic,’ Senator Cynthia Lummis told 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,’ the Senate Transportation Committee member added.
Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, added that the administration’s actions finally addressing these issues is ‘months late and more than a dollar short’.
Republicans want Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to testify to Congress about the bottleneck is America’s supply chain as the holidays approaches
He claimed the White House has been in ‘denial’ related to supply chain problems.
‘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.
‘My first advice to Secretary Buttigieg is stop making it worse and tackle the real issues,’ Brady said, accusing Biden’s team of making labor shortage issues worse by implementing a vaccine mandate for companies with more than 100 employees.
President Biden announced Wednesday a new plan to ease supply chain delays as container ships get stuck at ports with no trucks to take the containers. He called on the private sector to step up to help with bottlenecks.
The plan includes keeping the Port of Los Angeles operating 24/7. This specific port accounts for nearly half of all shipping containers entering the U.S.
Buttigieg is tasked with coordinating with private companies to alleviate the traffic jams at U.S. ports amid warnings of goods shortages. The Port of Los Angeles (pictured), which accounts for half of all shipping containers entering the U.S., is experience severe delays as trucks aren’t arriving to take the containers
Around a quarter of a trillion dollars worth of goods will have passed through Los Angeles port by the end of December 2021
Cranes move containers at the Port of Los Angeles after Biden ordered it to stay open for 24 hours to help with the supply crisis
‘If federal support is needed, I will direct all appropriate action,’ Biden said during remarks from the White House Wednesday, which Buttigieg attended. ‘And if the private sector doesn’t step up, we’re going to call them out and ask them to act.’
‘The bottom line, we’ve seen the cost of inaction in the pandemic,’ he added. ‘It is fully within our capacity to act, to make sure it never happens again. It’s going to take a little time, that we’ve unlocked the full might and dynamism of our people.’
Buttigieg has been tasked with coordinating with private companies in the trade and transportation sector to alleviate the backlog at U.S. ports amid warnings ensuing over goods shortages as the holidays approach.
Biden has repeatedly voiced his support of Buttigieg – the South Bend, Indiana Mayor turned 2020 presidential candidate turned Transportation secretary – thanking him during Wednesday remarks as a key negotiator for the new deal.
Since joining the administration, Buttigieg has largely steered clear of scrutiny, which changed as supply chains backed up as companies and Americans attempt to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
‘Pete Buttigieg is completely unqualified to handle the supply chain crisis,’ Republican Senator Tom Cotton tweeted on Wednesday from his campaign account.
‘The only reason he’s the Secretary of Transportation is because he endorsed Joe Biden,’ the frequent Biden critic continued. ‘Even Pete knows it.’
Republican Senator Tom Cotton slammed Buttigieg as ‘unqualified to handle the supply chain crisis’
A lack of certified commercial drivers has added to the disruptions in the economic supply chain as the United States tries to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic
Cotton added on his official congressional Twitter: ‘Pete Buttigieg couldn’t organize a one car funeral—he’s not going to organize our ports, railroads, highways, and airports.
Pete Buttigieg’s brother-in-law Ryhan Glezman, Chasten Buttigieg’s brother, said in July the couple had ‘lost touch with reality’ after Chasten told the Washington Post the couple could afford only an 800ft, one-bedroom apartment – which the paper said was advertised for about $4500.
‘We’re doing fine for ourselves, and [yet] the city is almost unaffordable. Which tells you how extremely unaffordable it is for many people,’ Chasten said in the interview.
Chasten also said that the rent was less than $4,500 a month when they signed the lease at the beginning of the year.
They secured a lease for the 800-square foot pad for $3,000 with two months of free rent, the Post reported.
The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in D.C. is $2,090 a month and $2,936 for a two-bedroom, according to rental site Zumper.
Glezman, a pastor in Michigan, said his brother Chasten Buttigieg’s comments would upset Americans surviving on much less money.
‘It saddens me to see my brother submitting to the victim mentality that distorts your view of reality,’ he said.
‘Living a victim mentality will suck the joy out of life and that is what I see happening with these comments.
‘When you’re making over 200k a year along with book sales and feel like you cannot afford to live then you have lost touch with reality.’
The White House has faced backlash for downplaying the supply chain issues and spiking inflation.
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain claimed Wednesday evening that the current U.S. economic issues are just ‘high class problems’.
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain agreed Wednesday that the U.S. economic problems are ‘high class problems’
Jason Furman, a Harvard Economics professor and former chairman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, tweeted: ‘Most of the economic problems we’re facing (inflation, supply chains, etc.) are high class problems.’
‘We wouldn’t have had them if the unemployment rate was still 10 percent,’ he added of earlier rates. ‘We would instead have had a much worse problem.’
Klain, President Joe Biden’s chief of staff, retweeted the post along with, ‘This’ and two emoji fingers pointing down to the tweet – indicating his agreement.
‘As long as we’re on the subject of class, it appears Mr Klain and the entire Biden White House missed Economics 101,’ Republican Georgia Representative Buddy Carter told DailyMail.com on Thursday.
‘Inflation hurts working families and seniors on fixed incomes the most while their runaway spending is leaving all our children and grandchildren under a crushing mountain of debt to China,’ he continued.
GOP Representative Byron Donalds of Florida told Daily Mail that the comments from Klain are indicative of the ‘tone-deafness’ of the Biden administration.
‘The cluelessness embroiling the White House stems from the top down, and that is evident with the tone-deaf statements coming from the Press Secretary and Chief of Staff,’ he said.
‘While they ignore the reality of Biden’s failed economic agenda, everyday Americans feel the pain of Bidenomics at the pump, grocery store, and just about every aspect of daily life,’ the congressman continued. ‘The American people are not better off today than before Biden got into office, and skyrocketing inflation is one of the many reasons this is the case.’
Klain also retweeted a post Wednesday from Democratic Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, who wrote: ‘In an economy that gives power to workers, not just employers, people quit their jobs all the time to start better jobs. Economic mobility is a good thing. Not a bad thing.’
Prices are surging in the U.S., in one part due to ships being stranded at ports as they wait for trucks to take the shipping containers, which is leading to shortages and delays and further exacerbating rising inflation.
He was responding to a tweet from Obama’s former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers who said problems would be ‘much worse’ if the unemployment rate was still 10%
Klain also retweeted a post from Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy on claiming people are quitting their jobs to start better jobs as minimum wage jobs see a shortage of workers
The shortage has led to shoppers taunting Biden with the hashtag ‘Empty Shelves Joe’, as they complained about the lack of products in their local stores, and concern grew about Christmas.
Jack Posobiec, an alt-right activist and commentator, noted that ‘EmptyShelvesJoe’ was the number one trending topic on Twitter.
Sharyl Attkisson, a journalist with Washington DC-based Full Measure News, tweeted a picture of empty shelves, noting: ‘My grocery. There’s plenty of food it’s not as if we will starve. But I’ve never seen empty shelves like this in my lifetime.’
Pearson Sharp, with One America News, tweeted a parody logo for Biden, with the E resembling empty shelves.
A shop owner in Arizona shared photos of his family’s store without the usual supplies.
‘#EmptyShelvesJoe #FJBiden #LetsGoBrandon Here’s our family owned hardware store.
‘My father’s been here for 35 years and he said it’s NEVER been like this. Smh.’
A man in Illinois tweeted a photo of a sparsely-stacked warehouse in Illinois, and said: ‘No toilet paper again. Thanks #EmptyShelvesJoe!’
A woman by the name of Laurie said: ‘Just went food shopping…again…thanks #EmptyShelvesJoe.
‘I really love having to go every day now in order to find what used to take one trip.’
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confusingly said during her briefing on Wednesday that inflation has actually decreased by 50 per cent in recent months, despite all numbers pointing to the contrary.
‘We’ve seen a decrease over the course of time,’ Psaki told reporters. ‘Over the second and third quarter of this year, monthly inflation increases have actually decelerated.’
Compared to September 2020, consumer prices have risen 5.4 per cent, according to Labor Department data released on Wednesday.
This indicates a 13-year high in inflation.
In response, the Social Security Administration announced Wednesday that it is rolling out its largest cost of living increase in nearly 40 years.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confusingly said Wednesday inflation has fallen by 50% in recent months, despite Labor Department numbers showing compared to September 2020, consumer prices have risen 5.4 per cent
The consumer price index rose 5.4 percent in September from a year ago, up slightly from August’s gain of 5.3 percent and matching the increases in June and July
Prices are up on a wide range of key goods as high inflation continues to hit US consumers
Social media erupted in criticism over Klain’s tweet Wednesday, claiming Biden’s top aide was downplaying hardships Americans are experiencing as inflation rises and unemployment remains high – at 4.8 per cent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed in its job report on Friday.
‘Struggling to pay for food, fuel, and housing because of rising prices is not a ‘high class problem,’ tweeted Tommy Pigott, the rapid response director for the Republican National Committee. ‘Biden is making everyone worse off, but instead of stopping the damage, their strategy is to try to gaslight Americans.’
Republican lawmakers also weren’t happy.
‘Inflation hurts every family in America,’ Republican Representative Lisa McClain of Michigan told DailyMail.com.
‘Ron Klain’s comments show how truly out of touch he and the Biden administration are with the American people,’ she added.
Ohio Republican Rep. Mike Turner tweeted.’Since when did paying more for gas, electricity, eggs, and meat only affect the ‘high class’? The Biden Administration is completely out of touch with the American people’
‘Since when did paying more for gas, electricity, eggs, and meat only affect the ‘high class’?’ Ohio Representative Mike Turner tweeted.
‘The Biden Administration is completely out of touch with the American people,’ he added.
Republican Kansas Senator Roger Marshall told Daily Mail: ’Make no mistake, the steep inflation harming the bank accounts of all Americans rests squarely on the shoulders of the socialist economic policies coming out of the White House.’
‘Over the past year, the prices for gas at the pump, groceries, and other household items have been steadily on the rise,’ he added. ‘Whether the Biden Administration acknowledges the truth or not, inflation is a hidden tax that hurts everyone – but none more than our seniors and young hard working families living paycheck to paycheck.’
Representative Dan Bishop said: ‘Skyrocketing inflation and supply chain shortages cannot be merely dismissed by the Biden White House as ‘high class problems.’
‘The cost of living is going up for hardworking Americans right now and that’s not debatable. President Biden is not only out of touch with the problems Americans face, but he clearly has no plan to solve an economic crisis he caused,’ he said.
When the pandemic first struck the nation in early 2020, the unemployment rate reached a frighteningly high rate of 14.7 per cent. The latest numbers are the lowest since then.
The BLS also released in the report that the U.S. added only 194,000 jobs in September.