By Paul LeBlanc, CNN
President Joe Biden said Thursday evening he’s considering deploying the National Guard to help ease stress on the US supply chain as it prompts growing concern about the economy, prompting a White House official to swiftly throw cold water on the plan.
“Yes, absolutely, positively. I will do that,” Biden said when asked by moderator Anderson Cooper during CNN’s town hall in Baltimore if he was prepared to call up the National Guard. The President said he would specifically consider calling up National Guard members for trucking to help solve a shortage of drivers “if we can’t move — increase the number of truckers, which we are in a process of doing.”
A White House official, however, told CNN shortly after that the administration is not actively considering deploying the National Guard despite Biden’s comments. “Requesting the use of the National Guard at the state level is under the purview of governors and we are not actively pursuing the use of the National Guard on a federal level,” the official said.
Still, the President’s comments underscore the severity of the supply chain crisis, which is denting Americans’ views of the economy. Business groups have urged the Biden administration to consider out-of-the-box ideas to address the supply chain mess, which is snarling shipments, raising costs and leaving some store shelves empty. And economists say the supply chain problems are showing no signs of slowing and could last into next year.
While Biden has directed the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to move to 24/7 operations, the ports can’t yet work round the clock because importers don’t have enough drivers to move their cargo at all hours.
Asked on Tuesday whether the White House would consider bringing in the National Guard or Navy to help unload cargo stacked up at ports or drive trucks, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “I’m not here to take options off the table.”
National Guard troops, a group composed of service members who hold civilian jobs and train part time, are usually deployed in their home states by governors or the federal government, who decide the length of each mission.
Asked Thursday if he had a timetable for potentially activating the National Guard, Biden said, “First of all, I want to get the ports up and running and get the railroads and the railheads and the trucks in port ready to move because I’ve gotten Walmart and others to say we’re going to move stuff off of the port into our warehouses.”
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CNN’s Kaanita Iyer, Kaitlan Collins and Matt Egan contributed to this report.