The Hill: Spanberger calls on Biden to appoint supply chain czar

THE HILL, MYCHAEL SCHNELL

Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) is calling on President Biden to appoint a supply chain czar to help coordinate a federal response to the bottlenecks that are causing a spike in prices nationwide.

Spanberger, in a letter to Biden on Monday, pointed to an increase in consumer demand, a shortage of workers and spikes in prices as reasons why the position is needed.

“I urge you to appoint a Supply Chain Czar responsible for coordinating a federal response to supply chain disruptions across all relevant agencies, working with state and local governments to address bottlenecks wherever they occur, and finding ways to bolster American manufacturing and supply chain resilience at home,” Spanberger wrote.

The letter comes as consumers nationwide are grappling with elevated prices at gas pumps and in grocery stores, in part a result of bottlenecks in the global supply chain.

Suppliers and retailers are struggling to keep up with consumer demand after laying off workers at the onset of the pandemic. Demand quickly rebounded in recent months amid more federal aid and as more individuals got vaccinated against COVID-19.

Spanberger sounded the alarm about a shortage of workers, contending that the conditions have “further compounded the backlog at ports and railyards as there are insufficient drivers to transport the offloaded goods nationwide.”

Concerns regarding the bottlenecks are now rising as the U.S. heads into the holiday season, when consumer demand will increase further.

In her letter to Biden, the Virginia Democrat said she is “deeply concerned” that the elevated food prices may hurt families that are just starting on the road to recovery from the pandemic. She noted that with Thanksgiving in just a few days, the price of a family’s holiday meal for 10 people has increased to $53 this year, up $6 from 2020.

Spanberger also raised concerns about the prices of natural gas, electricity and home heating oil as the U.S. heads into the winter months, writing that the current circumstances “may force some families to choose between heat and other essentials such as medicine, food, and other utilities.”

The Labor Department released data earlier this month showing that annual inflation has hit a 30-year high.

Biden addressed the supply chain shortages and rising inflation in remarks earlier this month, saying that his administration “has a plan to finish the job of getting us back to normal from the pandemic and having a stronger economy than we ever had before.”

Spanberger in her letter said she was “encouraged” after Biden signed the bipartisan infrastructure bill into law, following months of negotiations between congressional lawmakers and White House officials.

The $1.2 trillion piece of legislation includes investments in roads, bridges and railways.

Spanberger made headlines earlier this month when she told The New York Times that Biden was elected “to be normal and stop the chaos,” and not to be F.D.R., a reference to President Roosevelt and the New Deal policies of the 1930s following the Great Depression.

That comment came amid negotiations for the infrastructure bill and the Democrats’ social spending and climate package, and after the party suffered a tough loss in Virginia’s off-year governor’s race.

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.

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