Biden, first lady traveling to Texas amid recovery after devastating winter storm

President Joe Biden and the first lady, Jill, are traveling to Houston on Friday to survey damage caused by winter storms that battered the region last week, claiming dozens of lives across Texas and other states, and leaving millions without electricity for days.

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The trip marks Biden’s first to an area affected by a natural disaster since being sworn in as the nation’s 46th president last month. He’s scheduled to meet with Gov. Greg Abbott to tour the Harris County Emergency Operations Center.

The first lady will visit the Houston Food Bank to help package food and water for Texans still struggling with the effects of last week’s storm. Later, she and the president are scheduled to meet volunteers and tour the food bank.

The Bidens will also visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s COVID-19 vaccination facility at NRG Stadium, where the president is scheduled to deliver remarks before the first couple return to Washington.

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On Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the trip will be focused on “getting relief to the people in the state, getting updated briefings (and) tapping into all levers of the federal government,” and not on policies that could have mitigated or prevented the crisis.

“There’s plenty of time to have a policy discussion about better weatherization, better preparations, and I’m sure that’s one that will be had,” she said.

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Crews continue work to restore water and power to parts of Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma that were affected by record cold temperatures brought by last week’s storms. Biden previously approved of disaster declarations in all three states.

“The president doesn’t view the crisis and the millions of people who’ve been impacted by it as a Democratic or Republican issue,” Psaki said Thursday.

“He views it as an issue where he’s eager to get relief to tap into all the resources in the federal government, to make sure the people of Texas know we’re thinking about them, we’re fighting for them, and we’re going to continue working on this as they’re recovering.”

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Speaking Thursday at the National Governor Association’s winter meeting, Biden said he wanted Texans to know “that we’re here to provide the federal assistance you need to support your state, your local and tribal response efforts.”

“It’s clear that even when the immediate crisis passes, there’s going to be more work to be done to help constituents recover,” Biden said. “And my administration will be there every step of the way with you.”