President Biden on Thursday, in laying out his administration’s response efforts to Hurricane Ida and wildfires in California, declared that the "climate crisis is here," while pushing Congress to take action in his government spending plan.
During remarks from the White House Thursday, the president addressed the nation on his administration’s coordination efforts with state governors who are responding to "devastating storm floods" from Hurricane Ida, which he dubbed as the "fifth largest hurricane in our history."
The president said he has spoken with New York Gov. Hochul and New Jersey Gov. Murphy and plans to speak with Gov. Wolf of Pennsylvania Thursday to discuss Wednesday night’s historic storm, which brought record rain to states, and marked the first time the U.S. National Weather Service issued a flood emergency for Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island, parts of Long Island, and Connecticut.
The president said the Federal Emergency Management Agency is currently on the ground and "ready to provide all the assistance needed."
The president shifted, saying he is meeting with Louisiana Gov. Bel Edwards to assess the damage in the state from Hurricane Ida, adding that he has issued an emergency declaration there to help respond "quickly."
Biden said that since the hurricane hit, more than 6,000 members of the National Guard have been activated in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas, as well as in other states to "support search and rescue and recovery efforts for those who have lost their homes," adding that states have been working with the American Red Cross to open almost 50 shelters across the Gulf Coast.
As part of his administration’s recovery response efforts, Biden announced that he has directed the FAA to authorize the use of surveillance drones to assess Ida’s damage to energy infrastructure, while ensuring that those do not disrupt any aerial rescue missions. Biden also said he asked the Pentagon to "immediately" make available any satellite imagery that can aid in assessing damage on the ground.
He also directed the Department of Transportation to allow truckers to drive more hours than current limitations allow.
Biden, saying that the region is "key" to oil production, said he has directed Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to "use all of the tools at our disposal," including using the "Strategic Petroleum Reserve to keep gas flowing to the pumps in order to get critical supplies to the region."
"We also know a lot of people lost cell service because carriers went down," Biden said, adding that he asked the Federal Communications Commission to ask people to use roaming services, and said they should get a signal "no matter what carrier they have."
"Just think of the sons and daughters, moms and dads love trying to reach that just because they can't, the cellphone is not working," Biden said. "Think of the millions of people reaching out for help. This is important and critical."
The president went on to call on insurance companies "not to evade the responsibility to keep the priorities they made to their customers and the promises and help some folks who are hurting."
"I’m calling on insurance companies – don’t hide behind the fine print – keep commitments, do the right thing, pay policy holders what you owe them," Biden said. "Help those in need."
"The past few days of Hurricane Ida and the wildfires in the West, and the unprecedented flash floods in New York and New Jersey is yet another reminder, these extreme storms, the climate crisis is here," Biden said. "We need to do, we must be better prepared, we need to act."
Biden said that when Congress returns to session this month, he will "press further action" on his "Build Back Better" plan, which he said would make "historic investments in electrical infrastructure, modernizing our roads, bridges, our water systems, sewer and drainage systems, electric grids and transmission lines and make them more resilient to these super storms and wildfires and floods that are going to happen with increasing frequency and ferocity."
"We're reminded this isn't about politics. Hurricane Ida didn't care if you were a Democrat or a Republican," Biden said. "Rural urban destruction is everywhere and it's a matter of life and death. And we're all in this together."
Biden added: "This is one of the great challenges of our time. But I'm confident we'll meet it with United States of America. And there's simply nothing – you’ve heard me say before – nothing beyond our capacity."
Last month, the Senate passed a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure spending bill.