Friday, September 17, 2021

Out West, Biden points to wildfires for major reconstruction

by Alexandra Jaffe and Darlene Superville

BOISE, Idaho (AP) – President Joe Biden on Monday pointed to wildfires burning in the West to argue for his $3.5 trillion rebuilding plans, linking year-round fires and other extreme weather to climate change. Said reality which the nation can no longer ignore.

Aiming to increase support for his larger reconstruction plans, the president said that every dollar spent on “resilience” would save $6 in future costs. And he said it should go beyond simply restoring damaged systems and instead ensure that communities can withstand catastrophic weather that is not based on partisan ideology.

“It’s not a Democrat thing. It’s not a Republican thing. It’s a weather thing,” he said. “It’s a reality. It’s serious and we can do that.”

The president’s two-day western swing comes at a turning point for the central issue of his legislative agenda. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are working to gather more plan details from the infrastructure — and how to pay for it, concerns not just Republicans. A prominent Democratic senator said on Sunday he would not vote for such a large package.

The president released his plea about climate change during a briefing at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, which coordinates the government’s response to wildfires.

He said wildfires start earlier every year and this year they have scorched 5.4 million acres. “It’s bigger than the entire state of New Jersey,” Biden said.

“The reality is that we have a global warming problem, a serious global warming problem, and it is consequential, and what is going to happen is not going to go back,” he said.

With stops in Idaho, California and Denver through Tuesday, Biden aims to add to the increasing frequency of wildfires, droughts, floods and other extreme weather events that he and scientists say are helping to combat climate change. Billions need to be invested, as well as wide expansion of the country’s social safety net.

The president argued for spending now to make the future effects of climate change less expensive, as he did during recent outages in Louisiana, New York and New Jersey – all states that lost millions of dollars in flooding and Other damage and many deaths occurred after Hurricane Ida.

Biden also praised firefighters for the life-threatening risks they pose, and the U.S. Forest Service’s primary supplier, the Oklahoma City nonprofit Call Newview by the administration recently to boost the supply of firehose from Oklahoma. Discussed the use of a wartime law.

In dark-red Idaho, many opposing groups took Biden’s visit as a way of showing resistance to his administration. GOP gubernatorial candidates, an anti-vaccine organization and a far-right group were among those urging people to turn against the president.

More than 1,000 protesters did so, gathering in Boise before Biden’s arrival to express displeasure over his coronavirus plan, the election and other issues.

“I’m against everything for Biden,” said Chris Burns, 62, of Boise. Burns was particularly unhappy with a broad new vaccine mandate for 100 million people, which Biden announced last week. “He’s acting like a dictator,” Burns said.

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Biden is on his first visit to the West in office, a visit primarily aimed at garnering support for a $3.5 trillion spending plan.

From Boise, the president was flying to California to survey the damage caused by the wildfires and to speak more broadly about the federal response. He was ending up in Long Beach on the eve of the election with California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, who faced a recall vote on Tuesday.

Biden also plans to boost his economic agenda in Denver on Tuesday.

The White House is trying to turn the corner after a rough month of a chaotic and violent US withdrawal from Afghanistan and a rising delta COVID-19 version that the president hoped will mark a summer in which the nation was finally free. from coronavirus.

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Biden acknowledged that his polling numbers have declined in recent weeks, but argued that his agenda is “highly popular” with the public. He said he expected his Republican opponents to attack him instead of debating the merits of his spending plan.

In addition to the Republican opposition in Congress, Biden needs to clear the doubts of two leading centrist Democrats in the closely divided Senate. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kirsten Cinemas of Arizona have expressed concern about the size of the $3.5 trillion spending package.

Manchin said on Sunday: “I can’t support $3.5 trillion,” citing specifically his opposition to a proposed increase in the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% and the huge new social spending envisioned by the president. Munchkin also complained about a process he said felt rushed.

The 100-member Senate is divided equally between Democrats and Republicans. Given the GOP’s solid opposition, Biden’s plan would fail to approve the Senate without Munchkin and cinema’s backing.

Climate provisions in Biden’s plans include tax incentives for clean energy and electric vehicles, investments to shift the economy away from fossil fuels and toward renewable sources such as wind and solar power, and the creation of a civilian climate corps.

Stops in Idaho, a state Biden lost by more than 30 percentage points last year, offered Biden a deep-red background to argue that climate investment should be a priority across party lines. Idaho and California have turned wildfire season into a year-long crisis.

In June the Biden administration laid out a strategy to tackle the growing wildfire threat, including hiring more federal firefighters and implementing new techniques to detect and deal with fires quickly. Last month, the president approved a disaster declaration for California, providing federal aid for counties affected by the Dixie and River fires. He issued another disaster declaration for the state just ahead of Monday’s visit aimed at areas affected by the Caldor fire.


Superville reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Rebecca Boone and Keith Riddler in Boise and Amer Madani in Wilmington, Delaware contributed.

Out West, Biden points to wildfires for major reconstruction
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