Out West, Biden points to wildfires to push for big rebuild
California: President Joe Biden on Monday used his first Western swing in office to hold out the wildfires burning across the region as an argument for his USD 3.5 trillion rebuilding plans, calling year-round fires and other extreme weather a climate change reality the nation can no longer ignore.
We can't ignore the reality that these wildfires are being supercharged by climate change, Biden said, noting that catastrophic weather doesn't strike based on partisan ideology. It isn't about red or blue states. It's about fires. Just fires.
With stops in Idaho and California, Biden sought to boost support for his big rebuilding plans, saying every dollar spent on resilience would save USD 6 in future costs. And he said the rebuilding must go beyond simply restoring damaged systems and instead ensure communities can withstand such crises.
These fires are blinking code red' for our nation. They're gaining frequency and ferocity, Biden said after concluding an aerial tour of the Caldor Fire that threatened communities around Lake Tahoe. We know what we have to do.
The president's two-day Western swing comes at a critical juncture for a central plank of his legislative agenda.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are working to assemble details of the infrastructure-plus plan and how to pay for it, a concern not just for Republicans. A key Democratic senator said Sunday that he will not vote for a package so large.
In California, Biden took an aerial tour of land charred by the Caldor Fire after getting a briefing from officials at the state emergency services office. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who faces a recall vote Tuesday, joined Biden for the briefing.
Hours later, Biden campaigned with the embattled governor in Long Beach, tying Newsom's leading Republican challenger to former President Donald Trump and telling voters their decision would reverberate around the nation and, quite frankly, not a joke, around the world.
By voting against the recall, Biden told the crowd, you'll be protecting California from another Trump climate denier.
Newsom joked at the briefing that the California emergency center had become his office because fire season has just kept going, as he amplified Biden's message.
This has been a hard year and a half, Newsom said.
During an earlier briefing in Boise at the National Interagency Fire Center, which coordinates the government's wildfire response, Biden noted that wildfires start earlier every year and that this year they have scorched 5.4 million acres. That's larger than the entire state of New Jersey, Biden said.
The reality is we have a global warming problem, a serious global warming problem, and it's consequential, and what's going to happen is, things are not going to go back," he said.
Biden, who visits Denver on Tuesday before returning to Washington, aimed to link the increasing frequency of wildfires, drought, floods and other extreme weather events to what he and scientists say is a need to invest billions in combating climate change, along with vastly expanding the nation's social safety net.