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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki downplayed the administration's role in keeping America's supply chains moving when asked by a reporter on Wednesday whether Americans would get their gifts on time this holiday season.
"Based on everything being announced today, can this administration guarantee that holiday packages will arrive on time?"
a reporter asked Psaki.
"We are not the Postal Service or UPS or FedEx; we cannot guarantee,"
Psaki responded. "What we can do is use every lever at the federal government['s] disposal to reduce delays, to ensure that we are addressing bottlenecks in the system, including ports and the need for them to be open longer hours so that goods can arrive. And we can continue to press not only workers and unions, but also companies, to take as many steps as they can to reduce these delays."
REPORTER: Thanks, Jen. On the supply-chain issue, Secretary Buttigieg is saying that there may be challenges for last-minute shoppers. I'm among them. Secretary Yellen says, "There [could] be isolated shortages of goods... in the coming months." So, can you give us a realistic breakdown of what Americans could be facing on these shortages come the holiday season? What are we talking about?
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: For shipment of goods -
PSAKI: - which I assume is what you're asking about?
REPORTER: Yes, yes.
PSAKI: So, the reason that the president has been working so hard for months - long before the last few weeks - to address supply-chain issues is because he knows - he knew they were multifaceted and that they were impacting a lot of different industries.
I know you're asking about shipments and the shipment and movement of goods. And obviously, the announcement today related to the ports is a reflection of action taken by the president, by this administration to - to have an immediate impact. Obviously, there's more that we will continue to press to be done as we're looking to increase the shipment of goods moving more quickly. That's one of the - one of the bottlenecks in the supply chain that will help address those concerns people have.
Look, we - I can't make a prediction from you - for you that we're going to solve every issue tomorrow and next week; we're not. We're coming out of an economic crisis caused by a pandemic. But what we are doing is working to - using every tool at our disposal to ease the impact on the American people, ease the impact on families as we look to the holidays, but certainly beyond that.
REPORTER: But should Americans expect that this will get worse before it gets better?
PSAKI: I'm not going to make a prediction of that from here. We know there are a number of issues that impact the supply chain. And I don't want to make a prediction because it's not just one issue.
Certainly, increasing the capacity at courts - at ports, not courts - at ports and increasing the number of hours will have a positive impact. There's no question about that.
But there are other issues that impact the global supply chain, including the pandemic - something that we are working 24 hours a day to help address around the world. That's impacted manufacturing some countries, manufacturing of goods in some places, and reducing the supply in some places. That's one of the factors, too. We're also working to address that.
It's not just one issue. But certainly, we're going to use every lever at our disposal to address it, to make it - to address the bottlenecks as quickly as we can.
REPORTER: Let me ask that in a slightly similar but different way.
REPORTER: Based on everything being announced today -
REPORTER: - can this administration guarantee that holiday packages will arrive on time?
PSAKI: We are not the Postal Service or UPS or FedEx; we cannot guarantee. What we can do is use every lever at the federal government['s] disposal to reduce delays, to ensure that we are addressing bottlenecks in the system, including ports and the need for them to be open longer hours so that goods can arrive. And we can continue to press not only workers and unions, but also companies to take as many steps as they can to reduce these delays.
REPORTER: And on the companies' aspect to this: There's just a few lines about what exactly Walmart is committing to today. They're increasing "use of nighttime hours significantly and projects they could increase throughput by as much as 50 percent over the next several weeks."
This is a company that was frequently maligned during the Democratic presidential primary as paying workers pretty bad wages in the view of those that were running. Did the administration seek any assurances from Walmart that these changes won't affect their store workers or that there might be some kind of either pay raise or other labor assurances for those that are going to have to work these extra hours?
PSAKI: I think you're very familiar, Ed, with where the president stands on the minimum wage. The fact that it's long overdue to increase the minimum wage is something that he has been quite vocal about for a range of companies.
It is also true that we recognize that families, people across the country are purchasing, whether they're toys or gifts or just household goods from a range of suppliers, including Walmart. And we are working to ease the burden on them at the same time.
But we are not taking our foot off the gas pedal of pressing for an increase in the minimum wage for - and for companies to do the right thing.
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