Sen. Cotton: Biden Should Have Dealt With U.S. Port Operations 'Months Ago'

By Susan Jones | October 14, 2021 | 10:17am EDT
 Container ships wait off Huntington Beach, Calif. in September. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
Container ships wait off Huntington Beach, Calif. in September. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

( - President Biden on Wednesday announced that the Port of Los Angeles will begin operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, instead of Monday-Friday.

"This is the first key step for moving our entire freight transportation and logistical supply chain nationwide to a 24/7 system," the president said.

Biden publicly addressed the supply chain backlog after retailers and economists began warning about toy shortages heading into the Christmas season.

What took him so long, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) wondered:

He celebrates today that they are going to keep the Port of Los Angeles open 24 hours a day, which they probably should have been doing months ago. At the same time the White House is saying you are probably not going to get everything you want for Christmas.

Well, who's going to save Christmas for Americans? Pete Buttigieg? Please. (Transportation Secretary) Pete Buttigieg couldn't organize a one-car funeral. He is not going to organize our nation's ports and railroads and highways and airports.

Biden said the move to 24/7 operations at the Port of Los Angeles happened "after weeks of negotiation and working with my team and with the major union retailers, and freight movers, the Ports of Los Angeles."

In late February, Biden signed an executive order to "address the vulnerabilities in our supply chains."  The order mandated a 100-day review of "four vital products" -- semiconductors, rare earth minerals, pharmaceuticals, and advanced batteries.

It also ordered a review of ways to "fortify our supply chains at every step," and "to start implementing those recommendations right away.  We’re not going to wait for a review to be completed before we start closing the existing gaps," Biden said at the time.

In June, Biden announced the creation of a new Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force "to provide a whole-of-government response to address near-term supply chain challenges to the economic recovery."

The task force is led by Transportation Secretary Buttigieg as well as the Secretaries of Commerce and Agriculture.

In August, speaking in Singapore, Vice President Kamala Harris warned of delayed Christmas toys: "The stories that we are now hearing about the caution that if you want to have Christmas toys for your children, it might be the time to start buying them because the delay may be many, many months," she said.

Last week, Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy asked spokeswoman Jen Pskai why the administration hadn't done more to prepare for the global supply chain disruption:

"[W]e have been talking about the issues in the global supply chain since January," Psaki responded:

And the President has not only put in place a task force, but we have taken a range of steps to work to address.

Now, it’s not just about ensuring that we are having different companies speak to each other; we’ve certainly done that.  We’ve been a forum for hosting different industry leaders to see what we can — what we can reduce, in terms of red tape in the process.

The — one of the biggest issues in the global supply chain is also COVID and the fact that COVID continues to be a threat to supply chains that are happening globally.  So, we’ve also worked to be the — by far and away — the largest provider of vaccines, know-how, manufacturing capacity to the world.

So, we’ve not only been talking about this since January, we’ve been working to put in place a range of steps to help address the challenges in the supply chains.

Doocy followed up: "And, as we understand it, it’s not just COVID; there are also labor shortages and issues with shipping lines here — overground shipping lines in the U.S.  Is the President satisfied that his task force is doing a good job?"

"The President recognizes that there are several, several layers of the challenge here that contribute to the bottleneck," Psaki said.

And on ports and transportation bottlenecks specifically, we appointed — the President appointed a White House Ports Envoy this summer, John Porcari, to work with Secretary Buttigieg and bring stakeholders — labor, private industry — together to help solve the global transportation supply problems.

The fact that he designated and — and appointed someone at that level with a range of vast experience shows that this is a part of the issue we’re absolutely focused on.

We’re also focused, as I noted, on the work of the Supply Chain Task Force, also the semiconductor shortage, which has been an issue that has impacted a range of industries.  And we’re working to attack the challenges in the global supply chain at every point they are in the bottleneck.

Biden made it clear on Wednesday that Americans' growing concerns about empty store shelves motivated him to move beyond executive orders and task forces:

"I know you’re hearing a lot about something called 'supply chains' and how hard it is to get a range of things from a toaster to sneakers to a bicycle to bedroom furniture," the president said at the very beginning of his speech.

"And with the holidays coming up, you might be wondering if the gifts you planned to buy will arrive on time..."

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