Pete Buttigieg, back from two-month paternity absence, cites 'new appreciation' for parental leave

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has been on paternity leave for about two months during a worsening shipping crisis, said Wednesday he has a “new appreciation” for the Biden administration’s policies that allowed him to take time off from his Cabinet post.

“The pro-family agenda of this administration has to do with making it easier and more affordable to raise children in this country, and I do have a new appreciation for that as a new parent, having been able to take time,” Mr. Buttigieg said on CNN. 

He said of his parental leave, “it’s just a different kind of work and joyful work but intense work of raising kids.”

Mr. Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten, adopted twins in August. His leave was not announced at the time, and the administration didn’t name an acting transportation secretary while Mr. Buttigieg was on leave.

The move has led to criticism that Mr. Buttigieg has been missing in action while the nation’s ports face a bottleneck of container ships and a shortage of trucking to unload and transport the cargo. Congress has been also struggling to pass major infrastructure bills on which the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor had been a major negotiator for the administration.

Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, tweeted that Mr. Buttigieg’s performance on the job “has been so bad that Americans didn’t even realize he spent the last two months absent on paternity leave.”

Fox News host Tucker Carlson said Mr. Buttigieg was “trying to figure out how to breastfeed — no word on how that went.”

Mr. Buttigieg retorted that Mr. Carlson “just doesn’t understand the concept of bottle feeding, let alone the concept of paternity leave.”

“But what is really strange is that, you know, this is from a side of the aisle that used to claim the mantle of being pro-family. What we have right now is an administration that’s actually pro-family,” he said on MSNBC.

The White House said Mr. Buttigieg is now back at his post — days after his long absence was first reported.

“He’s at work,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told a reporter on Tuesday. “I think what you’re getting at here is this question of whether men/parents/women should have paternity and maternity leave. The answer is, absolutely.”

Log Cabin Republicans President Charles Moran said the media in Washington have given the administration a pass due to identity politics.

“Secretary Pete Buttigieg is the second openly-gay cabinet secretary, but he is the first to fail at his job,” Mr. Moran said in a statement. “Amid an unprecedented supply-chain crisis that is ripping apart America’s economy, Buttigieg went MIA from the Department of Transportation for nearly two months. It’s clear he doesn’t respect the gravity of his job, but even if he had showed up for work, it wouldn’t have made a difference – Pete Buttigieg was and remains completely unqualified to lead the Department of Transportation and was clearly hired by Joe Biden because he was gay and the Left prioritizes identity politics and wokeism.”

He added, “If the D.C. media wasn’t so in the tank for Joe Biden and the Left, this story would have been reported weeks ago. Instead, it’s alarming that a Cabinet secretary in Joe Biden’s Washington can leave work for weeks and no one in the Washington press corps notices.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Buttigieg also tried to frame his extended leave as a piece of the administration’s efforts to fight inflation.

“There’s a lot of concern about pressure on prices about inflation, and part of what it takes to make inflation better is a better labor market,” Mr. Buttigieg said. “And part of what it takes to do that, it’s better and more affordable child care, so that more women and more parents in general can participate in our labor market.”

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