Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg's office reportedly told Politico's ''West Wing Playbook'' that he's been on paid leave since the middle of August following the birth of his two children.
Politico wrote in its newsletter that ''Pete Buttigieg has been MIA,'' even as Democrats continue to debate the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan, with House and Senate moderates resisting the more progressive policies in the legislation.
The news outlet said the former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination ''was absent on Capitol Hill during the negotiations over the bill he had been previously helping sell to different members of Congress."
In recent weeks, news has also emerged of a deepening crunch in the nation's supply chain, potentially affecting retail prices and raising the risk that many sought-after items won't be obtainable in time for Christmas.
In an effort to tackle the worsening situation and relieve bottlenecks, President Joe Biden announced this week that the White House had helped broker an agreement for the Port of Los Angeles to become a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week operation.
Politico, in its report, noted that while Buttigieg's office ''didn't previously announce it ... 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.''
A Transportation spokesperson said in a statement that ''For the first four weeks, he was mostly offline except for major agency decisions and matters that could not be delegated. He has been ramping up activities since then,'' and the secretary will ''continue to take some time over the coming weeks to support his husband and take care of his new children.''
Buttigieg has recently increased his media appearances, with interviews on CNN's ''New Day,'' MSNBC's ''Morning Joe,'' ''MSNBC with Geoff Bennett,'' Bloomberg TV's ''Balance of Power,'' CNBC's ''Morning Bell,'' as well as the "NPR Politics Podcast" since last week.
Dawn Huckelbridge, the director of the group Paid Leave for All, said in a statement that Buttigieg should be supported for taking time off work following the birth of his children.
''It absolutely reflects changing norms and changing needs,'' she said. ''I'm thrilled that the secretary did that and showed that work and family go together.''
Politico notes that Cabinet secretaries are not eligible for the same benefits as federal workers, including paid family leave, which has led previous secretaries to feel pressured to return to work soon after the birth of their children. A spokesperson for former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro said that he took about a ''week or so'' off after his child was born.
A spokesperson for the Office of Personnel Management said that ''individuals in the executive branch who are appointed by the president to positions in the executive schedule are not covered by the leave system. They do not earn leave and serve at the pleasure of the president. The president can choose to allow him to take time off.''
When asked if President Joe Biden approved Buttigieg's time off, a White House official said: ''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. We're overjoyed for him and Chasten, and believe every American should have access to paid family leave.''
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