Supply-chain issues surface as political divide in Georgia

A rail mounted gantry crane lifts a 40-foot shipping container and loads it onto a rail car at the Georgia Ports Authority Mason Mega Rail Terminal in Savannah. Efforts are underway to increase capacity at the port as the nation deals with supply-chain problems that have contributed to inflation and product shortages. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Caption
A rail mounted gantry crane lifts a 40-foot shipping container and loads it onto a rail car at the Georgia Ports Authority Mason Mega Rail Terminal in Savannah. Efforts are underway to increase capacity at the port as the nation deals with supply-chain problems that have contributed to inflation and product shortages. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Credit: Stephen B. Morton

Credit: Stephen B. Morton

As Georgia Democrats fanned out across the state this week to tout the benefits of the bipartisan infrastructure package, Gov. Brian Kemp convened top state officials to paint a grim picture of supply-chain issues triggered by congestion.

The competing narratives provided a snapshot of a growing political battle over the complex global supply-chain bottlenecks that have created shipping delays and caused prices to rise.

While economists agree the coronavirus pandemic is at the root of the backlog, its role as a contributor to inflation and product shortages has fast become a favorite Republican talking point. At Monday’s summit, Kemp asserted that key logistical networks have come to a “screeching halt” under President Joe Biden.

“Supply-chain interruptions don’t just hurt job creators,” Kemp said, “it also hits Georgia families in their wallets.”

Democrats counter that the intricate supply-chain problems are symptoms of systemic issues that the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure measure will begin to fix. Biden has recently tapped a special port envoy and announced around-the-clock hours for the Port of Los Angeles to help clear the backlog.

“We’re doing a ton of creative work to help smooth backups and clear backlogs,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in an interview, citing efforts to add inland storage ports to clear the container pileup on Georgia’s coast. “The administration has a role to play.”

Kemp, a first-term Republican, brought up the new storage sites for containers, too, along with other efforts to expand capacity at the bustling Port of Savannah as a sign that Georgians have “rolled up their sleeves” and taken decisive action as Washington waffled.

Caption
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has joined more than a dozen other GOP governors to urge President Joe Biden to allow more truck drivers under the age of 21 to haul cargo between states as a way to ease supply-chain problems in the country. (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has joined more than a dozen other GOP governors to urge President Joe Biden to allow more truck drivers under the age of 21 to haul cargo between states as a way to ease supply-chain problems in the country. (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images/TNS)
Caption
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has joined more than a dozen other GOP governors to urge President Joe Biden to allow more truck drivers under the age of 21 to haul cargo between states as a way to ease supply-chain problems in the country. (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

He also joined more than a dozen other GOP governors to urge Biden to allow more truck drivers under the age of 21 to haul cargo between states. The average age of a Georgia commercial license holder is 52, and Kemp said changing the limit could add 25,000 drivers a year.

“Getting young people into this industry is something that we’ve got to figure out how to do in a safe way,” said Mitch Sheppard, an executive with the Howard Sheppard shipping firm.

State Democrats, meanwhile, have embarked on an extended victory lap to promote the infrastructure measure, which will pour billions of dollars into roads, bridges, utilities, public transportation and initiatives to combat climate change.

All eight Georgia Republicans in the U.S. House opposed it, raising concerns about the cost and programs aimed at cutting carbon emissions. At stops throughout the state, Democrats have highlighted projects that would benefit from the funding — and reminded audiences of the GOP opposition.

At a stop Tuesday in Augusta, U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff stood with local leaders near the site of a renovation of a pedestrian bridge that spans the Savannah River.

“This is a generational investment in America’s infrastructure, and we did it in Congress in a bipartisan way. And that matters,” he said. “All of these upgrades and investments are on their way.”

Caption
U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff stopped in Augusta on Tuesday to highlight the renovation of a pedestrian bridge as a way to promote the $1.2 trillion infrastructure that Congress recently passed. “This is a generational investment in America’s infrastructure, and we did it in Congress in a bipartisan way. And that matters,” Ossoff said. “All of these upgrades and investments are on their way.” (Photo Credit: U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff's office.)

Credit: Photo Contributed

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff stopped in Augusta on Tuesday to highlight the renovation of a pedestrian bridge as a way to promote the $1.2 trillion infrastructure that Congress recently passed. “This is a generational investment in America’s infrastructure, and we did it in Congress in a bipartisan way. And that matters,” Ossoff said. “All of these upgrades and investments are on their way.” (Photo Credit: U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff's office.)
Caption
U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff stopped in Augusta on Tuesday to highlight the renovation of a pedestrian bridge as a way to promote the $1.2 trillion infrastructure that Congress recently passed. “This is a generational investment in America’s infrastructure, and we did it in Congress in a bipartisan way. And that matters,” Ossoff said. “All of these upgrades and investments are on their way.” (Photo Credit: U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff's office.)

Credit: Photo Contributed

Credit: Photo Contributed

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