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Biden tours storm-ravaged Texas amid state’s reckoning

After touring injury from the deadly winter storm that paralyzed Texas final week, President Biden — joined by a number of of the state’s prime Republican and Democratic political leaders — used the primary catastrophe go to of his presidency on Friday to name for unity.

“When a disaster hits our states, it’s not a Republican or Democrat who’s hurting. It’s a fellow American who’s hurting,” Biden stated as he concluded his journey at a federal COVID-19 vaccination web site in Houston. “My prayers are with you within the aftermath of the storm…. We will probably be true companions that can assist you cowl the invoice for the storm and this pandemic.”

Biden acquired a heat reception in a conservative state the place he made election inroads however the place Democrats still lost many state and local races, particularly outdoors the state’s largest cities, which lean Democrat. Amongst registered Texas voters, 45% approve of the job Biden’s doing and 44% disapprove, in accordance with a ballot this month by the College of Texas and the Texas Tribune. The divide was largely alongside partisan strains: 80% of Republicans disapproved whereas 89% of Democrats accredited. The ballot’s margin of sampling error was plus or minus 2.83 share factors.

“He’s coming for all Texans, for folks like myself who had been with out energy,” stated Douglas Brinkley, a president historian at Houston’s Rice College, previous to Biden and First Woman Jill Biden arriving at Ellington Discipline Joint Reserve Base. “It’s a symbolic gesture.”

Biden’s look, by which he emphasised a way of empathy for victims of all stripes, stood in distinction to former President Trump’s first presidential go to to a catastrophe space, additionally Houston, after Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Trump didn’t meet with storm victims throughout the journey, and when he returned 4 days later, urged individuals who had relocated to a shelter to “have time.”

Trump acted in the same method months later whereas visiting storm victims in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, tossing a few of them rolls of paper towels, and in California final yr, when he critiqued state officers’ forest administration throughout a go to to wildfire-ravaged areas.

Texas was ill-equipped final week to deal with days of subzero temperatures, which led to at the least 50 deaths within the Houston space alone and left millions without power and drinking water as a consequence of burst pipes and different storm-related injury. The state’s unbiased energy grid that serves its largest cities — the one one not linked to different main U.S. grids — crashed.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat whose own residence misplaced energy throughout the storm, stated the dimensions of the catastrophe was tough to fathom.

“For lots of those houses, you’re not going to have the ability to see it from the skin as a result of the injury for probably the most half is on the within,” from burst pipes and flooding, Turner stated as he waited to greet the president and first girl. “The restoration nonetheless exists, nonetheless must happen in folks’s houses.”

Texas delight additionally took a serious hit from the historic storm. Friday was Go Texan Day, the annual launch of the Houston Livestock Present and Rodeo, however the digital occasion was misplaced on many nonetheless recovering from the storm. About one million Texans nonetheless lacked consuming water this week, 57,000 within the Houston space. Some had been additionally scrambling to search out meals after the storm disrupted provide chains. They’re counting on companies just like the Houston Meals Financial institution, the place Jill Biden helped pack meals with Texas First Woman Cecilia Abbott earlier than rejoining the president on the vaccination web site.

Final week, Biden signed a catastrophe declaration for a lot of Texas and state leaders had been lobbying Friday to increase the scope.

W. Nim Kidd, chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Administration, confirmed Biden a state map with giant areas not but lined by the federal catastrophe declaration.

“We’ve obtained an extended option to go. Mr. President, I do know we will get by way of this collectively, and we’ve simply obtained to maintain going,” Kidd stated.

Biden was accompanied Friday by elected officers together with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. John Cornyn. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who confronted a backlash final week after leaving Texas amid the storm for a household trip to Cancun, was notably absent — attending a conservative political convention in Florida. White Home press secretary Jen Psaki stated Cruz didn’t ask to affix the president in Houston, nor was he invited.

“The president has made very clear to us that in crises like this, it’s our responsibility to prepare immediate and competent federal help to Americans, and we’ve got to make sure that forms and politics don’t stand in the best way,” Homeland Safety Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall stated throughout the journey.

Criticism of the storm response in Texas has centered on the state’s unbiased electrical grid, particularly weatherization. Many consider state leaders mismanaged the storm response, with six members of the board that manages the ability grid resigning this week. The Texas Legislature has began public hearings, the place lawmakers have grilled officers chargeable for operating the ability system.

Sherwood-Randall stated it’s as much as Texas to deal with its overarching issues.

“The primary resolution must be made by the state of Texas about what sort of power system it needs to keep up, what sort of power market,” she stated.

Texas Democratic Get together Chair Gilberto Hinojosa has referred to as for Gov. Abbott to testify on the hearings “to reply: Why had been our of us left to freeze?” Abbott initially blamed outages on inexperienced power sources, and simply weeks earlier than the storm he had ordered state companies to search out methods to sue the Biden administration over power regulation.

On Friday, Hinojosa thanked Biden “for offering rapid and tangible aid to thousands and thousands of Texans who’ve been struggling not solely as a result of current winter storm however from the COVID-19 pandemic. The president’s go to right now offered a bipartisan promise to assist our fellow Texans in significant methods that can enhance and save lives.”

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