Biden Administration Brokers L.A. Port Deal Amid Supply Chain Disruption

President Joe Biden is expected to announce new efforts to address the growing supply chain disruption that is preventing Americans from getting critical goods and driving up costs—including a deal to transition the Port of Los Angeles to round-the-clock operations.

"We've been hard at work identifying problems and solutions to those problems to accelerate the movement of goods," a senior administration official told reporters in a preview ahead of Biden's remarks on Wednesday. "Today's commitments are a big deal and will go a long way in addressing short-term challenges."

American consumers have increasingly faced product shortages, particularly for items ordered online, and rapidly escalating prices. The supply chain disruptions, which the administration has attributed largely to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, have also hit the ground freight industry.

In addition to the port deal, which follows the Port of Long Beach's earlier transition to 24/7 operations at the administration's urging, Biden is expected to announce deals with labor unions to ensure there's no worker shortage to handle the new port hours and with Walmart, FedEx and UPS to increase delivery and processing hours. Additionally, Samsung, Home Depot and Target have agreed to move cargo containers out of the ports during off-peak hours.

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handle 40 percent of all cargo containers that enter the United States.

Biden announced in June that he was establishing a task force, headed by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, to identify emerging bottlenecks to the supply chain.

"The first point to make about this is that this is really being driven a lot by increased demand," the senior official said. "During the pandemic, of course, people shifted their expenditures from services to more durable goods, as they repaired homes and purchased a lot of entertainment and leisure activities as well."

Before his public remarks this afternoon, Biden and Buttigieg are set to meet with the heads of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, union leaders and business CEOs, as well as representatives from the National Retail Federation, American Trucking Associations, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other trade groups.

"These are major commitments, but they're most effective when every private company along the supply chain does the same thing," the senior official said. "Now we're looking to trucking and freight to expand hours as well to help with bottlenecks ... We've been working very closely with the trucking industry, both from a national perspective and from a local one."

Republicans have hammered Biden over the shortages that have led to drastic increases in costs of food, televisions, toys, cars and other goods heading into the holiday season. It's also creating shortages that have left Americans often unable to even get many items.

Critics of Biden have argued that his embrace of COVID-19 relief funds artificially infused the United States economy, prompting inflation as spending increased. But the White House has said it is focusing on addressing the bottleneck issues.

"I think it's fair to say that we do think there's demand components of this, but, fundamentally, we think that the historic support that the Biden-Harris administration has provided to households and small businesses across the country has been vital," the administration official said.

Biden addresses supply chain disruption with ports
A cargo ship filled with containers waits offshore for entry to the Port of Los Angeles on October 6, 2021 in Los Angeles, California as supply chain disruptions continue to affect the US economy. A record number of cargo ships have been stuck in limbo off the southern California coast waiting for entry to either the Ports of Los Angeles or Long Beach. Frederic J. BROWN / AFP/Getty Images