The White House on Tuesday asked Congress for billions in disaster aid as President Biden toured communities in New Jersey and New York ravaged by a recent hurricane.
Biden said the damage caused by Hurricane Ida reflects the new reality of climate change, which he described as an existential threat to U.S. communities and the economy. The trip was his second in less than a week to an area ravaged by the hurricane, and Biden used the visit to renew focus on his economic agenda to rebuild infrastructure and address climate change.
“People are beginning to realize this is much, much bigger than anyone was willing to believe,” Biden said in New York City’s Queens borough after touring a neighborhood pummeled by Hurricane Ida last week. “I think we’ve all seen, even the climate skeptics are seeing, that this really does matter.”
Biden called for “bold action” to tackle climate change in the form of his Build Back Better agenda.
Biden toured flood damage in Queens and Manville, N.J. Dozens of people were killed in the two states after the remnants of Hurricane Ida brought devastating winds and dropped several inches of rain in a matter of hours, flooding roadways and homes and crippling New York City’s subway system.
Biden met with families whose homes were destroyed by floods and damaging winds, offering his condolences and expressing relief that the residents were able to evacuate in time.
In New Jersey, a young boy from the Manville neighborhood handed Biden a letter, and the president embraced him in a hug. In Queens, Biden was joined by area lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
The president and administration officials have used a recent flurry of extreme weather – Hurricane Ida battered the Gulf Coast and the northeast as wildfires have raged across parts of the Western United States – to highlight the consequences of climate change and argue for major investments in the White House’s infrastructure proposals.
“Every part of the country is getting hit by extreme weather. And we’re now living in real time what the country is going to look like,” Biden said during a briefing in New Jersey. “We can’t turn it back very much but we can prevent it from getting worse.”
Administration officials also asked Congress on Tuesday for an estimated $24 billion in emergency aid to address natural disasters and extreme weather events. Officials said that, while the full extent of the damage from Ida is not currently known, they expect to need upwards of $10 billion in assistance for recovery efforts from the single hurricane alone, while previous storms and extreme weather require $14 billion in emergency aid.
“Weather events such as these are just becoming more normal,” Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell said at a New Jersey emergency management center. “They’re becoming more common, but they’re more severe and they’re more intense. And the effects of climate change that are causing these storms are here. And it’s our job to make sure we are all ready to respond, as well as prepared.”
The White House and congressional Democrats are seeking to push a massive reconciliation bill through this month that contains billions of dollars in funding to address climate change, despite resistance from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a moderate who last week said he opposed the $3.5 trillion price tag of the bill.
“We must attack the cancer of climate change that is driving these destructive storms,” Schumer, speaking before Biden, said on Tuesday in Queens.
The billions in additional disaster funding that the White House requested on Tuesday would come as part of a continuing resolution (CR) to prevent a government shutdown by the end of the 2021 fiscal year on Sept. 30.
Officials sent a document with technical assistance on the stopgap funding measure to Congress on Tuesday.
“A short-term CR is necessary not only to provide Congress additional time to pass full-year appropriations bills that make bold, forward-looking investments in our future, but also to address the specific, urgent needs facing our country right now,” acting Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young wrote in a blog post.