By Nandita Bose
HILLSBOROUGH TOWNSHIP, N.J. (Reuters) – President Joe Biden visited flood-damaged New Jersey on Tuesday to survey the upheaval caused by Hurricane Ida, putting a focus on climate change and domestic priorities after weeks of public attention on the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Biden promised federal aid and urged national unity during a trip to storm-hit Louisiana on Friday after Ida devastated parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast and unleashed even deadlier flooding in the Northeast.
On Tuesday, he will be briefed by local leaders in Hillsborough Township, New Jersey, and tour a neighborhood in Manville that was hit hard by the storm.
Later, he will visit a neighborhood in New York City’s Queens borough and deliver remarks there.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Biden would emphasize that one out of three Americans lives in counties that have been impacted by severe weather events in recent months.
“The average costs of extreme weather are getting bigger, and no one is immune from climate change,” Psaki said, referencing what Biden would address in his remarks.
The president’s flood damage trips revive a familiar role of consoler-in-chief, a shift from the time he has spent staunchly defending his decision to pull U.S. troops from Afghanistan and the deadly aftermath that ensued.
Although the Afghanistan issue is not behind him – the United States is still working to get Americans left in the country out, and resettling tens of thousands of evacuees – Biden is expected to focus in the coming days on a fight to protect women’s reproductive rights in the wake of a new Texas anti-abortion law, the end of extended unemployment benefits for many Americans, and new measures to fight COVID-19.
On Saturday, the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, he will visit the three sites where hijacked U.S. domestic planes crashed, and next week, he plans to visit California to boost Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom’s effort to stay in office amid a recall election.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said on Tuesday it would take “months more likely than weeks” to complete cleanup, repairs and rebuilding after his state was ravaged by flooding and a tornado from the remnants of Storm Ida. He told CNN that Biden, who has issued disaster declarations for six of the state’s counties, had been “pitch perfect” in his response to the storm’s destruction.
Dozens of people have died from the hurricane’s destruction and some states are still grappling with widespread power outages and water-filled homes.
Speaking briefly to reporters on Monday evening after a trip to his home state of Delaware, Biden declared that Tuesday would be a “big day.” The president has used the storm to highlight the need for infrastructure spending in a bill he is working to get through Congress.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose and Jeff Mason; additional reporting by Peter Szekely; Writing by Jeff Mason; Editing by Heather Timmons, Dan Grebler and Bernadette Baum)