The Biden administration's Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg joined NBC News on Sunday to defend his two months paid paternity leave, as the nation faces a deepening transportation and supply chain crisis.
"When somebody welcomes a new child into their family and goes on leave to take care of that child, that's not a vacation. It's work," Buttigieg said of his leave, which began in August after he and husband Chasten welcomed two infant twins into their family.
"It's joyful, wonderful, fulfilling work, but it is work," Buttigieg said, noting that the US should be more like other countries that do have federal paid parental leave policies.
The secretary of transportation was slammed in national headlines last week for simply being not around as ports are backed up, supply chains crumble, and retailers fear they won't be able to get goods in time for the Christmas shopping season.
Buttigieg insisted that paid family leave is priority of the Biden administration and that it is part of Biden's massive Build Back Better spending bill, which has hit substantial snags in Congress. Democrats may have to pull paid parental leave from the bill in order to get it through.
"You've been under some bizarre attack for taking paid leave by some loudmouths in our political system," Meet the Press said, "but I want to ask you about paid family leave in general, because it may not be in the final part of Build Back Better."
"You took it," he continued, "the federal government offers it to federal employees, what does it say if the President can't get paid family leave in his agenda?"
"Well it's on the president's agenda. It's in the Build Back Better plan and I'm proud to work for an administration that walks the walk on family values," Buttigieg said.
"It may not last," Meet the Press countered.
"It's in the President's vision and we will see what the legislative process is going to bring," Buttigieg responded, "but the president has been very clear on what he's calling for. And the American people want this too. And frankly I view this as something, or I wish at least that this were something, that Republicans could join Democrats in calling for. Paid family leave is important. It's important as a matter of family values, it's important to our economy," he said.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson slammed Buttigieg on Thursday, saying: "Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child. Paternity leave, they call it, trying to figure out how to breastfeed. No word on how that went."
Buttigieg's decision to take two months off from his post as Secretary of Transportation has been criticized as the pipeline of goods from Asia into the US continues to back up, putting pressure on an already struggling economy.