WASHINGTON — President Biden will fly to New Orleans on Friday to review the damage done by Hurricane Ida as part of an effort to demonstrate his commitment to the federal government’s storm response, even as his administration remains mired in other pressing matters from the coronavirus wave to the aftermath of his withdrawal from Afghanistan.
In guidelines for reporters released late Thursday night, White House officials said Mr. Biden would investigate storm damage and meet with government officials from communities affected by the hurricane, which the president described Thursday as the fifth largest hurricane in U.S. history. .
Biden said in a White House address earlier on Thursday that he would meet with Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, along with parish presidents and other local officials.
“Governor Edwards encouraged me to come and assured me that the visit will not disrupt recovery efforts on the ground,” Mr Biden said. “I wanted to be sure of that. My message to everyone involved is: we are all in this together. The nation is here to help.”
Ida slammed into Louisiana on Sunday as a Category 4 hurricane, killing at least 12 people and laying the electrical grid in ruins, before its remnants marched up the East Coast and engulfed New York and much of the rest of the Northeast, killing dozens more. perished .
Despite the departure of the last US troops from Afghanistan on Monday, Mr. Biden has done his best over the past week to show his commitment to the storm response. On Sunday, as the storm made landfall on the Gulf Coast, it stopped at the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington to give workers a pep talk.
Mr. Biden said on Thursday that he received “hourly updates on FEMA’s progress late into the night, and we will work around the clock until the region’s critical needs are fully met.”
New York Floods
Biden’s itinerary and aggressive public efforts to highlight how his administration prepared for the storm are in stark contrast to President George W. Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina 16 years ago.
Bush was sharply criticized for the slow federal response to that storm, which engulfed parts of New Orleans and killed more than 1,800 people. Mr. Bush was famously photographed viewing the storm’s devastation from a window on Air Force One, in what became a symbol of federal detachment from the damage. He later said he regretted the photo and wished he had landed in Louisiana.
“I should have landed in Baton Rouge, met the governor and, you know, walked out and said, ‘I hear you,’” Bush said in a 2010 interview. “And then back on a flight to Washington. I have not done that. And paid a price for it.”
Mr Biden did not mention Mr Bush in his comments about the hurricane this week. But he has repeatedly promoted government efforts to put electrical workers, medical teams, electrical generators and other aid ahead of the storm, hoping to quickly provide relief to those affected.
“Even as we address core elements of disaster relief, we are also deploying new tools to help accelerate this recovery — things that haven’t been used much in previous hurricane responses,” Biden said on Thursday. “By partnering with private companies that own and operate lifeline infrastructure such as electricity and communications, we have leveraged the latest technology to accelerate the recovery of power and cell phone services.”
Mr Biden has also used the storm, including Wednesday’s flooding in the northeast, to draw attention to his agenda to fight climate change. Democrats in Congress are scrambling this month in an effort to approve a multi-billion dollar bill that Biden says should include tax incentives for deploying low-carbon energy along with other policies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday that the hurricane has reaffirmed the president’s “commitment to get his Build Back Better agenda, which has a huge, massive focus on tackling the climate crisis.” confirmed.