President Biden on Wednesday praised his “port envoy” John Porcari for doing a “heck of job” — twice calling him by the wrong first name — while discussing mounting shipping-container backlogs that threaten the timely delivery of everyday consumer goods, Christmas gifts and even the trees to put them under.
Biden applauded Porcari’s work as he announced that the Port of Los Angeles would move to a 24/7 work schedule following the emergency example of the nearby Port of Long Beach, which expanded hours three weeks ago to alleviate the mounting supply chain crunch.
“I especially want to thank Joe Porcari. And I think Joe’s done one heck of a job, my special envoy specifically on ports, who’s been working this issue with all the stakeholders for the past several weeks,” Biden said, twice mangling his trusted envoy’s name in the White House East Room.
The White House announced on Aug. 27 that John Davis Porcari would be the port envoy. He was a deputy transportation secretary during the Obama administration.
Biden’s use of the term “heck of a job” comes amid appearances to the contrary.
A backlog of nearly 100 large ships has remained near the Los Angeles coast for more than a month waiting to unload goods. The issue gained broad attention this week as the crisis dragged on, threatening the timely delivery of gifts for the holidays.
Politicians avoid declaring that someone has done a “heck of a job” because of the term’s infamous use by President George W. Bush to praise FEMA Director Michael Brown after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005. Many critics felt Brown had not done a good job and the remark was used to portray Bush as aloof during a difficult disaster response.
Biden on Wednesday also praised the labor union that mans the Port of Los Angeles for committing to staff the facility around the clock. The Los Angeles and Long Beach ports together process about 40 percent of international shipping containers entering the US.
The White House said that FedEx, UPS and Walmart also are committing to increase cargo-processing work hours so that the work never ceases.
“Walmart is committing as much as a 50 percent increase in the use of off-peak hours over the next several weeks,” Biden said.
“Additionally, FedEx and UPS, two of our nation’s biggest freight movers, are committing today to significantly increase the amount of goods they’re moving at night… Their commitment to go all in on 24/7 operations means that businesses of all sizes will get their goods on the shelves faster and more reliably.”
But Biden also said that he would seek to shame any businesses that he feels aren’t doing enough. On a background call with reporters Tuesday evening, a Biden administration official said “now we’re looking to trucking and freight to expand hours as well to help with bottlenecks.”
Biden said that “if federal support is needed, I’ll direct all appropriate action. And if the private sector doesn’t step up, we’re going to call them out and ask them to act.”
Critics say Biden bears some of the blame for the logjam by boosting consumer demand with generous COVID-19 stimulus funds, which also are blamed for high inflation and a record number of people quitting their jobs, leading to a record number of job openings, including in the trucking industry, which is at the center of the supply chain bottleneck.