The White House was forced to intervene Friday and walk back claims President Joe Biden made during a town hall event on Thursday night, admitting that the administration is “not pursuing” using the National Guard to solve the supply chain crisis and that the official United States policy on China and Taiwan has not changed.
During the town hall, hosted by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Biden suggested that if supply chain issues persist, he would send in the National Guard to drive trucks from ports where goods are unloaded to retail and big box stores.
“The answer is yes,” Biden said when asked about the possibility of deploying the National Guard to handle supply chain issues. “Absolutely, positively.”
When Cooper suggested that the National Guard could drive trucks, Biden responded positively.
“The answer is yes if we can’t move to increase the number of truckers, which we’re in the process of doing,” he said.
President Biden says he would call on the National Guard to help solve the supply chain crisis #BidenTownHall https://t.co/JuitY9AORV pic.twitter.com/LhVAg29MI4
— CNN (@CNN) October 22, 2021
The White House is currently working to partner with commercial shippers and other delivery services to increase the number of long- and short-haul truckers on the roads. The industry, The Hill reports, is approximately 80,000 truckers short, contributing to the ongoing scarcity problems.
The supply chain crisis is multi-faceted and truckers are just one part of a larger, global issue. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a marked downturn in the number of commercial flights which, in turn, caused a downturn in the amount of freight able to travel by air. An increase in the number of cargo ships, China’s decision to reopen its international trade, and the ongoing labor shortage also contribute to the problem.
But, the White House now says, regardless of the president’s feelings on the matter, the administration has not even considered using the National Guard to provide short-term relief to the trucking industry — and it’s unlikely the president would even have the authority.
“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,” a White House official told CNN.
A White House spokesperson also walked back Biden’s comments on Taiwan. In the CNN townhall, Biden said that he does not “want a Cold War with China,” but that the U.S. will make “China understand that we are not going to step back, we are not going to change any of our views.” Asked whether the U.S. would defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack, Biden said yes.
The statement incensed Chinese officials, who fired back Friday morning, warning the U.S. not to stray from its current non-interference policy on Taiwan, per Fox News.
“There is no change in our policy,” the spokesperson told Fox. “The U.S. defense relationship with Taiwan is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act.”
“We will uphold our commitment under the Act, we will continue to support Taiwan’s self-defense, and we will continue to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo,” the spokesperson noted.