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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Sunday that the Biden administration is working to alleviate the ongoing supply chain squeeze while acknowledging some strains will persist for months.
“A lot of the challenges that we have been experiencing this year will continue into next year,” Buttigieg said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” But there are both short-term and long-term steps that we can take to do something about it."
Buttigieg painted some of the trouble as a positive sign of the country’s economic recovery.
“Demand is off the charts,” he said. “Retail sales are through the roof. … Now the issue is, even though our ports are handling more than they ever have — record amounts of goods coming through — our supply chains can't keep up.”
The Transportation secretary acknowledged that the administration is limited in some aspects in how it can intervene given the multifaceted nature of the global supply chain “that is mostly in private hands, and rightly so.”
“Our role is to be an honest broker, bring together all of the different players there, secure commitments, and get solutions that are going to make it easier,” he said.
Buttigieg struck a similar tone in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” stating that “this is a capitalist country.”
“These are private-sector systems,” he said. “Nobody wants the federal government to own or operate the stores, the warehouses, the trucks, or the ships, or the ports. Our role is to try to make sure we're supporting those businesses and those workers who do.”
President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the Port of Los Angeles, a major shipping nexus, would operate on a 24/7 basis to address a glaring bottleneck that has caused reverberations throughout the supply chain.
The administration is racing to lessen strain on the system as the holiday season approaches — a period with the potential to loom large in voters’ psyche if problems endure and could hamper many businesses that rely on the increased economic activity at the end of the calendar year.
Asked by NBC’s Chuck Todd about lessening tariffs or utilizing the National Guard as ways of addressing problems in the supply chain, Buttigieg did not rule out the possibility of either option.
“I think that any opportunity to make a difference will be looked at,” he said.
Buttigieg said the United States, on the whole, is on a better trajectory heading into the holidays than in 2020, pointing to the widespread availability of Covid-19 vaccines and positive economic indicators as reasons for optimism.
“We can expect a much better holiday season this year than we were facing a year ago,” he said.