Amid reports of dock worker and trucker shortages threatening the country’s critical supply chains, the federal government revealed Thursday that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been absent because he is on paid paternity leave.
The supply chain crisis this week actually elicited a response from President Joe Biden.
“Today we have some good news. We’re going to help speed up the delivery of goods, all across America,” Pres. Biden says during remarks on global supply chain. https://t.co/7L1PBm3gsf pic.twitter.com/017U0tYF0B
— ABC News (@ABC) October 13, 2021
But issues with getting crucial good across the country has apparently not been on the forefront of the mind of the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor, who two months ago decided to take some time off. The openly gay transportation secretary’s office told Politico’s West Wing Playbook that since Buttigieg and his husband Chasten adopted two babies over the summer, Buttigieg has taken advantage of paid family leave since mid-August.
“For the first four weeks, he was mostly offline except for major agency decisions and matters that could not be delegated,” a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation told the outlet. “He has been ramping up activities since then.”
The DOT spokesperson added Buttigieg will “continue to take some time over the coming weeks to support his husband and take care of his new children.”
Buttigieg’s time away comes as the White House has warned that bottlenecks in shipping could lead to shortages of supplies as Americans prepare to Christmas shop. Even more alarming, Americans on social media are complaining about shortages of goods in their local grocery stores.
On Thursday, the hashtag #EmptyShelvesJoe became the number one trend on Twitter.
Many have questioned whether the time away for the DOT head is appropriate, given Buttigieg is not a normal federal employee. He serves the president directly as a Cabinet member, and thus any time way must be directly approved by the president.
A spokesperson for the Office of Personnel Management told Politico that Biden would have approved his transportation secretary’s request for paternity leave. That is because people who work for the executive branch directly are not covered by the paid family leave policies like other federal workers.
“Individuals in the executive branch who are appointed by the President to positions in the Executive Schedule are not covered by the leave system,” the office spokesperson said. “They do not earn leave and serve at the pleasure of the President.”
“The President can choose to allow him to take time off.”
The White House would not confirm or deny if Biden had approved Buttigieg’s time off.
“Pete’s been a key member of the team since Day One, and has been critical as we shepherd the President’s agenda across the finish line,” the White House said in a statement. “We’re overjoyed for him and Chasten, and believe every American should have access to paid family leave.”
Buttigieg announced on Sept. 4 that he and Chasten adopted a girl and a boy in August.
“Chasten and I are beyond thankful for all the kind wishes since first sharing the news that we’re becoming parents,” Buttigieg tweeted. “We are delighted to welcome Penelope Rose and Joseph August Buttigieg to our family.”
Chasten and I are beyond thankful for all the kind wishes since first sharing the news that we’re becoming parents. We are delighted to welcome Penelope Rose and Joseph August Buttigieg to our family. pic.twitter.com/kS89gb11Ax
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) September 4, 2021
In the weeks since the transportation secretary announced the expansion of his family, cargo ships have been seen anchored off of America’s coasts waiting to be unloaded.
Biden this week announced that ports, such as those in Southern California, will begin operating 24 hours per day.
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