By MOLLY NAGLE, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden will travel to Houston Friday to survey damage from the winter storm last week that left millions in Texas without power, and in need of drinking water.
The trip to Texas marks the first time Biden will travel to address a crisis beyond the COVID-19 pandemic that has consumed his young presidency.
Biden will travel with first lady Jill Biden to the Lone Star State Friday morning and will spend the day with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday.
“He’s going to be spending the day with the governor of Texas because this is not a partisan issue. This is not just impacting Democrats or Republicans. It’s impacting all of the people in the state. There obviously was a period of time where we needed to make sure that people were safe. Now we’re at the recovery stage where we need to make sure people have access to clean water, access to places to live and to stay,” Psaki said on ABC’s The View.
“The president wants to survey the damage so he can tap into all the resources in the federal government. We’ve already declared an emergency in over 100 counties, and our FEMA administrator, our acting administrator, is continuing to review, but the president wants to see for himself, and he wants to show his support and he wants to get briefed by the governor,” she continued.
Biden declared a major disaster in Texas Saturday, making federal funding available to residents in a portion of the state’s counties impacted by the storm.
He first addressed his plans to travel to the state last Friday, telling reporters he didn’t want to strain resources on the ground.
“If, in fact, it’s concluded that I can do without creating a burden for the folks on the ground when they’re dealing with this crisis, I plan on going,” Biden told reporters.
The effects of the storm were intensified due to massive power outages across the state that left millions without power amid the freezing temperatures, snow and ice.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the nonprofit corporation responsible for managing 90% of the state’s electricity, has come under intense scrutiny for the power failures during the storm. The Texas Legislature held hearings Thursday to investigate the outages.
When asked during the White House press briefing if Biden had a message for leaders in the state about the failure, Psaki said the administration remained focused on relief efforts.
“There is plenty of time to have a policy discussion about better weatherization, better preparations. And I’m sure that’s one that will be had. But right now, we’re focused on getting relief to the people in the state, getting updated briefings, tapping into all of the levers of federal government,” she said.
While in Texas, Biden is also expected to visit a vaccination site to see the progress on distributing COVID-19 vaccinations, after the winter storm also caused delays to vaccine shipments in the state.
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.