Politics Biden set for consoler-in-chief visit to winter storm-battered Texas
The Daily 202: Biden builds back boring in town hall. That’s not a bad thing
Let’s come out and say it: An absence of incendiary tweets doesn’t make a young presidency boring when the administration is facing a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, the resulting economic devastation, the climate crisis and a host of other problems. A running seven-day average of deaths from the virus stood at 2,455. Whatever the assessment of whether Biden is meeting those challenges, these are not boring times. On the substance, the Delaware Democrat probably disappointed progressives on several fronts.
will embrace a familiar role on his trip to Houston Friday as he seeks to offer both comfort and federal support after a severe winter storm-battered Texas and .
It's a role past presidents have stepped into amid disasters and tragedies but also, whose connections with loss and crisis are among his calling cards.
Winter storms devastate US after a year of Covid lockdown -- and it's nowhere near over
There is no fine time for a devastating barrage of winter storms, but it's hard to imagine the weather icing over much of the United States coming at a less opportune moment. © THOMAS SHEA/AFP/Getty Images Customers wait in line to enter Frontier Fiesta on February 17, 2021 in Houston, Texas. - A winter storm has caused rolling black-outs through out the Houston and the surrounding areas for the past 48 hours.
In his first official trip in the wake of a disaster, the President will visit the Harris County Emergency Operations Center and later tour and meet with volunteers at the Houston Food Bank, where first lady Jill Biden will package food and water for the community earlier in the day. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, will also join the President in Houston on Friday.
"The President doesn't view the crisis and the millions of people who've been impacted by it as a Democratic or a Republican issue," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday. "He views it as an issue where he's eager to get relief to tap into all the resources in the federal government to make sure the people of Texas know we're thinking about them, we're fighting for them and we're going to continue working on this as they're recovering."
Texas Boy Dies Of Suspected Hypothermia After Home Suffers Power Outage
The family moved to the U.S. from Tela, Honduras, two years ago and were not used to such freezing temperatures. Although the toddler was fine, the following day, by 2pm, the sixth grader had not stirred. Cristian Pavon Pineda made no complaint of feeling unwell the previous evening, Maria Elisa Pineda said. After the 11-year-old was found dead on Monday afternoon, his mother and step-father, Manuel Moreno, 38, immediately called the police. Conroe Police Department investigators came to the home and stayed until 8pm that day. An autopsy was performed Thursday, said Conroe PD spokesman Sgt.
The President also will deliver remarks at a federal vaccination site at NRG Stadium, where the Houston Texans play, as Texas is among the states catching up on its vaccinations after delays due to the storm.
Last week, Biden approved a major disaster declaration for the state, which unlocked more federal resources to help Texas amid the storm. The President also spoke with Abbott twice -- first on a call with a bipartisan group of governors from states affected by the storms and again in a private conversation later in the week.
As Texas residents faced power and water outages during the winter storm, Abbott was among those Texas Republicans laying misleading blame toward renewable energy sources. He also said the Democratic-proposed Green New Deal would bring more failures of power if it became law.
Texas Pays the Price of the Culture War
Instead of focusing on governance, Republican politicians in the Lone Star State spent their time inflaming grievances.We were among the millions of Texans who lost power when a massive winter storm brought the temperature down to the single digits. In Houston, a woman and child accidentally suffocated themselves with carbon monoxide trying to stay warm in their car. Two people in Austin died in a fire that likely resulted from an attempt to stay warm. Here in San Antonio, a man in his 70s was found dead, apparently from exposure.
As Texas residents faced power and water outages during the winter storm, Abbott was among those Texas Republicans laying misleading blame on renewable energy sources. He also said the Democratic-proposed Green New Deal would bring more failures of power if it became law.
Biden to visit Texans battered by deadly winter storm, upset with state leaders
President Biden's visit to Texas comes as many are angry at state leaders and still recovering after losing power and water.“He’s coming for all Texans, for people like myself who were without power," said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Houston’s Rice University. "It's a symbolic gesture.
The Texas visit is as much about assessing how the federal government can offer assistance in the wake of the storm as it is offering emotional support for a state reeling from the disaster.
"It's a lot about showing up, and that matters a lot to people," Kenny Thompson, a former Biden vice presidential adviser, said. "He takes his time with every single person he talks to. There's really no reason to have a schedule for these kinds of days because he's going to spend as much time with people as they allow him to because that's who Joe Biden is."
But neither GOP US senator will be traveling with Biden to Texas, according to Psaki.
"There are some limitations on space available, so there are not members, I don't believe ... of any party traveling with the President to Texas," she said during her briefing. "But again, he's going to be spending the day traveling with Gov. Abbott and surveying the damage on the ground."
Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn said on Thursday he is "anxious" to join Biden on his trip to Houston, but that he has not gotten "clear signals" from the administration about the plans.
How the Texas Winter Storm Disaster Will Shape Joe Biden's Climate Agenda
How the Texas Winter Storm Disaster Will Shape Joe Biden's Climate AgendaThe Biden Administration has signaled that once its COVID relief legislation passes Congress, it plans to push for a massive stimulus package that would put people to work rebuilding American infrastructure designed to combat climate change. The Texas disaster has quickly become a focal point of the debate over that plan.
"I'm anxious to do that," he said, adding, "we haven't gotten clear signals from ... the White House, in terms of what their travel schedule is. But if I could do that, I would like to do that. I think it would be appropriate."
Moments of empathy
While in office, the President has prioritized the moments where he can offer consolation to the country.
In a somber White House ceremony earlier in the week,, sharing his own experience with loss after the tragic deaths of his wife and baby daughter just before he was sworn-into the Senate, and decades later, of his son Beau.
"For the loved ones left behind: I know all too well. I know what it's like to not be there when it happens. I know what it's like when you are there holding their hands, there's a look in their eye and they slip away," he said.
Biden later added: "We ask you to join us to remember. So we can heal. To find purpose, and the work ahead to show that there is light in the darkness."
He's also lent this type of support behind the scenes. When a tornado hit Alabama last month, Biden called the state's Republican Gov. Kay Ivey to check on the impact. Last weekend, he spent an hour visiting privately with his friend and former Republican Sen. Bob Dole after he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.
A Guatemalan asylum seeker may lose both hands to Texas frostbite. The U.S. wants to send him back
A Texas hospital said a 21-year-old's hands may need to be amputated after he was found unconscious in the historic winter storm. Border Patrol agents told him he'd be sent back to Guatemala when he was discharged.The smuggler was long gone; and though Douglas yelled and yelled, no one came. The 21-year-old and a dozen other migrants already had been wandering in the desolate desert landscape around Big Bend, Texas, for two days when the snowstorm began.
Biden last traveled to Texas in June to extend condolences to the family of George Floyd, whose death in police custody sparked nationwide demonstrations on policy brutality and racial injustice, ahead of his Houston funeral.
"He listened, heard their pain and shared in their woe," the family's attorney Benjamin Crump said at the time. "That compassion meant the world to this grieving family."
And in countless moments on the campaign trail before the pandemic struck the country, Biden would linger long after his events to speak with voters approaching him with their own stories of loss and personal struggles.
Part of the job
Biden's trip Friday follows in the footsteps of his predecessors who traveled to sites of destruction to assess the aftermath and offer support. Former President Donald Trump visited several disaster zones while in office, including touring storm damage along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Laura last year. On a trip to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017, Trump casually tossed paper towels at a crowd of residents -- a move that gave fodder to his critics who characterized him as unempathetic.
As vice president, Biden often stepped into this role as well, touring the aftermath of hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires as well as visiting with families facing tragedy.
"As many details as we can give him as possible is what he asks for ranging from dollar amounts, to deaths, to how many schools are closed down, you name it," Thompson, who traveled to disaster zones and tragedy sites with Biden and former President Barack Obama, said. "Anything that's going to affect the community he's going into that's what he wants to know about."
At times, he would also make it a point to visit communities after they've recovered to shine light on their resilience. In 2014, Biden spoke at a dedication ceremony for Joplin High School as it re-opened after a tornado destroyed the Missouri school and several others three years earlier.
"You are the example of who we are as a people," Biden said at the time. "We never bend; we never break; we never stop; and we always rebuild, and that's why I'm here. It's remarkable."
As Texans went without heat, light or water, some companies scored a big payday .
The nation's most deregulated energy economy was supposed to be a win for consumers, and for energy companies nimble enough to do business in a bustling, cacophonous market. But a cold snap shattered it last week.The nation’s most deregulated energy economy was supposed to be a win for consumers and for energy companies nimble enough to do business in a bustling, cacophonous market. But the cold snap — rare but by no means unprecedented — shattered it last week, plunging consumers into misery and leaving a badly prepared and dislocated energy sector in pieces.