In the west, Biden points to wildfires to push for a major rebuild

In the west, Biden points to wildfires to push for a major rebuild

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

“Even some of my less believing friends are all of a sudden having an altar call,” Biden said of those who have sought to minimize the risks posed by climate change. “They’re seeing the Lord.” With stops in Idaho and California, Biden sought to boost support for his big rebuilding plans, saying every dollar spent on “resilience” would save $6 in future costs. And he said the rebuilding must go beyond simply restoring damaged systems and instead ensure communities can withstand catastrophic weather that doesn’t strike based on partisan ideology. In California, Biden took an aerial tour of damage from 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.

Newsom said the 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.

The president argued for spending now to make the future effects of climate change less costly, as he did during recent stops in Louisiana, New York and New Jersey — all states that suffered millions of dollars in flood and other damage and scores of deaths after Hurricane Ida. Biden also praised firefighters for the life-threatening risks they take, and discussed the administration’s recent use of a wartime law to boost supplies of firehoses from the U.S. Forest Service’s primary supplier, an Oklahoma City nonprofit called NewView Oklahoma. In deep-red Idaho, several opposing groups leveraged Biden’s visit as a way to show resistance to his administration. GOP gubernatorial candidates, an anti-vaccine organization and a far-right group were among those urging people to turn out against the president.

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