IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Supply and demand: Shipping issues become Biden's latest economic challenge

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Ship to shore cranes work the container ship CMA CGM Laperouse at the Georgia Ports Authority's Port of Savannah on Sept. 29, 2021, in Savannah, Ga.
Ship to shore cranes work the container ship CMA CGM Laperouse at the Georgia Ports Authority's Port of Savannah on Sept. 29, 2021, in Savannah, Ga.Stephen B. Morton / AP file

WASHINGTON — A pandemic that’s killed more than 700,000 Americans. An economy that’s still not firing on all cylinders. A democracy that looks increasingly fragile. And a legislative agenda that still seems iffy on Capitol Hill (more on that below).

Those are all the issues on President Joe Biden’s plate as he approaches his ninth month in office.

And now you can add one more challenge for the president: backups in the international supply chain.

“Logistical backups at shipping ports, driven in part by worker shortages and Covid outbreaks, have doubled the time it takes for some products to make their way from Asia to the U.S,” NBC’s Teaganne Finn writes.

“The delays, which have persisted for months, have sent retailers scrambling to address the bottlenecks, including by chartering their own private cargo vessels to get around the congestion, before the holiday shopping season.”

Today, at 2:20 p.m. ET, Biden will speak about these bottlenecks, and he will announce that Walmart, FedEx and UPS will be trying to help resolve this supply chain issue.

None of these challenges for Biden is easy.

Still, if you want to know why more and more Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, it’s because all of the problems out there.

Which now include a supply chain disruption.

Democrats aren’t close to passing a reconciliation bill by Oct. 31

Last month’s infighting over President Biden’s legislative agenda resulted in Democrats acknowledging that the final reconciliation bill will have to be considerably smaller than $3.5 trillion.

“I am very disappointed that we are not going with the original $3.5 trillion,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday, per NBC’s Capitol Hill team.

Beyond that, however, Democrats are still divided over what exactly should be in that smaller bill.

Pelosi said in her weekly press conference that Democrats “have some important decisions to make in the next few days.”

“Whatever we do, it will be transformative. It will produce results,” she added.

“Whatever we do”?

Meanwhile, in a conference call on Tuesday with House progressives, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said that expanding Medicare to include dental, hearing and vision benefit is “not negotiable.”

And we still haven’t heard recently from Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., or Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.

Which means one thing: Democrats aren’t close to passing a reconciliation by Oct. 31 — the goal they set for themselves earlier this month.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

8.2: The number of percentage points President Biden’s approval rating has fallen since late June in FiveThirtyEight’s polling average.

4.3 million: The number of people in America who quit their jobs in August.

$3.5 million: The fine the Florida Health Department imposed on Leon County for mandating government employees get vaccinated for Covid-19.

$10 million: How much GOP-aligned One Nation is spending on new ads attacking vulnerable Democratic senators on spending.

44,627,272: The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 126,235 more since yesterday morning.)

722,123: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 3,066 more since yesterday morning.)

403,576,826: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC.

8,548,326: The number of booster vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC.

56.5 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

67.9 percent: The share of all U.S. adults at least 18 years of age who are fully vaccinated, per CDC.

Youngkin continues to lean into education

Now less than three weeks to go until Virginia’s gubernatorial election, Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin is up with another TV ad on education.

“Virginia parents have a right to make decisions on their children's education,” the ad goes. “That's the Virginia I grew up in. Terry McAuliffe wants to change that.”

The ad then replays McAuliffe’s line from last month’s debate: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

And tomorrow in Warrenton, Va., Youngkin will host a “Parents Matter” event.

The New York Times gets at what is the heart of this debate: “Vocal groups of parents, some led by Republican activists, are organizing against school curriculums, opposing public-health measures and calling for recalls of school board members. And Mr. Youngkin, a former private equity executive, has capitalized, seizing on conservatives’ concerns about instruction on race and the rights of transgender children to argue that Democrats want to come between parents and their children’s education.”

Both Youngkin and McAuliffe are talking to the same suburban voter — but with different messages.

For Youngkin, it’s that McAuliffe and Democrats will get in the way of your child’s education (especially when it comes to race and social issues).

For McAuliffe, it’s that Youngkin and Republicans will get in the way of your health in the midst of a pandemic.

As for McAuliffe’s campaign activity today, he and his wife vote in person this morning in Northern Virginia.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Iowa Republicans flipped a state House seat in last night’s special election, giving them control of the seat that’s been historically Democratic.

The U.S. is opening up its land borders with Mexico and Canada to fully vaccinated people

The White House plans to announce the Los Angeles port will stay open 24/7, and shipping companies will increase services in the hopes of battling supply chain issues.

NBC’s Sahil Kapur looks at Biden’s declining poll numbers — and how he can get them back up.

The Supreme Court will consider whether to reimpose the death penalty on the Boston Marathon bomber.

And Noah Pranksy writes about how Florida Gov. DeSantis has found an opponent in Joe Biden.