Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been on paid leave, spending time with his husband and their two newborn babies while the U.S. ports have become more congested, causing a supply chain crisis.
After weeks of people questioning Buttigieg’s whereabouts as crisis after crisis mounted, Politico’s West Wing Playbook confirmed on Thursday that the transportation secretary was “lying low.”
“They didn’t previously announce it, but Buttigieg’s office told West Wing Playbook that the secretary has actually been on paid leave since mid-August to spend time with his husband, Chasten, and their two newborn babies,” Playbook reported.
The Department of Transportation’s spokesperson confirmed that Buttigieg was “mostly offline” during this stormy period.
“For the first four weeks, he was mostly offline except for major agency decisions and matters that could not be delegated,” said the spokesperson. “He has been ramping up activities since then.”
Buttigieg will continue to “continue to take some time over the coming weeks to support his husband and take care of his new children,” the spokesperson added.
The White House did not confirm if Biden approved Buttigieg’s leave.
“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,” an official told Politico. “We’re overjoyed for him and Chasten and believe every American should have access to paid family leave.”
Reportedly, Buttigieg attended a “high-profile meeting” with Biden this past Wednesday. The ongoing supply chain crisis was discussed, along with the likelihood of empty shelves throughout small and major businesses this holiday season – resulting in the hashtag #EmptyShelvesJoe trending on Twitter on Thursday.
Since last Thursday, the Department of Transportation sent a damage control email to reporters this week glorifying Buttigieg’s media appearances. “ICYMI: Secretary Buttigieg Highlights Administration Efforts to Address Ongoing Supply Chain Disruptions,” the subject line reportedly said. In the past week, Buttigieg has appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, MSNBC with Geoff Bennett, CNN’s New Day, CNBC’s Morning Bell, Bloomberg TV’s Balance of Power, and the NPR Politics Podcast.
Director of the group Paid Leave for All, Dawn Huckelbridge, praised Buttigieg for taking paternity leave, saying it “reflects changing norms.”
“It absolutely reflects changing norms and changing needs,” said Huckelbridge “I’m thrilled that the secretary did that and showed that work and family go together.”
This week, the disrupted supply chain hit grocery stores; some reported empty shelves for canned goods, snacks, and pet food.
“Typically where shoppers can find snacks, canned goods, and pet food, the shelves were bare and nearly empty,” Jacksonville news station WJXT reported.
“In Target, fruit snacks were limited, protein bars were nearly gone too, and Lunchables were low in stock,” the outlet said. “We saw the least amount of available frozen foods at Publix, and snack foods like beef jerky were running low.”