The following is a transcript of an interview with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo that aired on Sunday, October 31, 2021, on "Face the Nation."
MARGARET BRENNAN: We're joined now by the Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo. She's the president's liaison to the business community. Madam Secretary, welcome to FACE THE NATION.
COMMERCE SECRETARY GINA RAIMONDO: Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Good to have you here. Supply chains around the world have been massively disrupted over the past few months. We have all of these bottlenecks. Why haven't the ports? Why haven't the truckers? Why hasn't this become unstuck?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Yeah, good morning. So, this is, as you say, a top issue for Americans. It's a complicated- complicated issue. I mean, last year during COVID, we shut our economy down. You know, I was the governor at the time. We shut down Rhode Island's economy. We have never seen that before. So that meant factories closed. People went home. You can't just turn the economy back on overnight. So, it takes a little bit of time. I will say we are making progress. You know, due to the president's leadership, we now have the ports open 24/7 seven and the two largest and busiest ports.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But there are reports that those- while the president announced the 24/7 opening, that that's not actually happening out in California, that there are still backups. The business community has been complaining about that.
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: There are backups. And as I said, this isn't something that can be fixed overnight. But the important thing is, you know, fundamentally, supply chains and logistics are run by the private sector. People say to me, will Christmas gifts be delivered? To which I say, call FedEx. You know that- that isn't what the government does. What we are doing, and the president is committed to this. We're using every tool in our toolbox to be supportive, to help to unstick the ports. An area that I am very focused on is the semiconductor shortage. We are leaning forward into that increasing transparency in the semiconductor supply chain to make sure that we do everything possible. But this is a direct result of COVID. It is temporary and we are working every day to unstick these supply chains.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Let me ask you about what you just brought up regarding a shortage. You say the government does need to do something about here that tech companies are really worried about these long-term supply chain issues. Apple said it had $6 billion in lost sales because they can't get goods in time here. So, in what the president just put forward in Build Back Better, this framework, it has money set aside manufacturing credit for chip production. Well, what does this actually do? How quickly does this fix things and do we need a mandate for domestic production?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Absolutely. So, you know, America invented the semiconductor industry. We started that industry right here. At one point in time, we made in America all the chips that we needed to consume. But over time, over the past several decades, that has left our shores in search of cheap labor in Asia. Now we find ourselves extremely vulnerable. And so, what the president is saying is we ought to get back into the business of making chips in America, which will, of course, create jobs and--
MARGARET BRENNAN: How quickly?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: -- Well Congress needs to act. This is a fund that will come to the Department of Commerce. It's a $52 billion set of incentives to rebuild the domestic supply here. The day after Congress passes this it can come to us and we can get to work.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you- just to button that up? Are you mandating domestic production? Are you close to that?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: No, we're not mandating. No, we're not mandating domestic production.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Because a prominent Republican senator, I'm sure you read an op-ed had something to that point this week.
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: What we're doing is we are working in partnership with industry to incentivize domestic production. We want to make chips in America, so we are incentivizing companies to do that, creating jobs every step of the way.
MARGARET BRENNAN: One of the things that you do hear complaints from- from retailers, from other people in the business sector is that the vaccine mandate- not a problem with the mandate per say, but claims that putting it in place at this time around the Christmas season will back everything up that they might have labor shortages as it comes to rolling this out at the White House. Jeff Zients, the vaccine czar so to speak, said there's some flexibility around these deadlines that- that they're not a cliff and the rules are being finalized soon. How soon do you need to push this off until after Christmas?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: No, I think that would be a big mistake. People want to work in a workplace where they feel safe. You see, you know, United Airlines, that was among the first to do the mandate. Their- you know, number of folks applying for jobs is through the roof. The best thing we can do to get people back to work is to make sure everybody is vaccinated.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right--
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: So--
MARGARET BRENNAN: But can you push that till after Christmas, you announced the rules--
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: It would be a mistake. It would be a mistake. You see, in the third quarter. You know, this year we're on path to have the strongest GDP growth in decades. We had a blip in the third quarter. Why? Delta- Delta variant, the quicker everyone gets vaccinated, the better our economy will be back on track, the quicker everybody gets back to work.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about the president's framework agenda here. The U.S. is, as you know, because you're passionate about this: paid family leave. We don't have it in this country. The president promised it was coming. It's not in this framework. That was a concession he made. You have said this is so essential to getting the economy going. How disappointed are you that that was just given up?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: I am unbelievably excited that we are on the precipice of passing the most significant piece of domestic legislation in 50 years. Public pre-K, broadband for every American, massive investments in childcare. As a woman, as a working mother, I know how essential this is.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You said paid leave was essential to get women back into the workplace, and that's not in this.
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Paid leave is essential too and we will continue to fight for that. You know, no- I don't think anyone ever expected the president would pass his entire domestic agenda in the first 10 months.
MARGARET BRENNAN: It looks like he's trying to pass most of his domestic agenda in the first 10 months, and this is not in it--
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: This is not in it, and--
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, the argument, though, throughout this from Democrats, has been, "If not now, when?" "This is a unique historic opportunity; it has to go on now in this big bill." And this is something you were so passionate about.
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: And I am still passionate about it, but--
MARGARET BRENNAN: But this is not going to happen if Democrats lose the majority, is it?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: I don't believe that's going to happen. Again, the president's package, which- which we believe will be passed very soon, probably hopefully this week, provides tangible improvements to people's lives. Better roads, better bridges, better airports, broadband for everybody, childcare, public pre-k. It is historic. Then we get to work, continuing to fight for paid leave. You know, we're not backing away from it. It is necessary. But nor should we take away from the- the monumental nature of what is in this package.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we will talk about the prospects for a vote with a key progressive up next. Madam Secretary, thank you for joining us. We'll be right back.
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