Washington — President Biden traveled to New York and New Jersey on Tuesday to survey damage from the, which produced deadly flash flooding in the Northeast as the storm tore through the region last week. The president pointed to the extreme weather as he pushed the need for massive infrastructure spending and addressing the effects of climate change.
Mr. Biden spent the afternoon in Hillsborough Township, New Jersey; Manville, New Jersey; and Queens, New York. He comforted victims, spoke to local officials and took in the destruction wrought by a storm that caused devastating regional flooding. At least 47 people in the Northeastbrought record rainfall and catastrophic flooding to the region. The storm in Louisiana on August 29 as a Category 4 storm and left scores of residents without power, as well as shortages of gas and water.
In Queens, the president said he wished every American could see what he'd seen.
"I wish every American could walk down this alley with me to see and talk to the people who have been devastated," Mr. Biden said. "Just to talk to them. None of them were shouting or complaining. Every one of them were thanking me as if it was something special, I mean it sincerely, that I was here, and hoped that we'd be able to do something. This is America, where I'm standing right now."
The president also highlighted the need for more action on climate change. Scientists, he said, have warned that climate change will continue to make weather more extreme. The president said he'll soon travel to the West Coast to survey the damage from wildfires there.
"The evidence is clear. Climate change poses an existential threat to our lives, to our economy," the president said in Queens. "And the threat is here. It's not going to get any better. The question is, can it get worse? We can stop it from getting worse. And when I talk about building back better, and Chuck (Schumer) is fighting for my program, our program, on the Hill, when I talk about building back better, I mean, you can't build to what it was before this last storm. You've gotta build better so that if the storm occurred again, there would be no damage."
Mr. Biden's visit to the two states comes against the backdrop of his administration's broader legislative push to revitalize the nation's infrastructure through a pair of spending packages. Congress has spent the past few months crafting a pair of proposals from Mr. Biden that together make up major portions of his domestic policy agenda, a $1 trillion bipartisan bill focusing on physical infrastructure and a second broader $3.5 trillion package that would encompass Democrats' plans for education, health care, child and elder care and the environment.
The Senatethe bipartisan infrastructure bill, which injects $550 billion in new federal spending to revitalize roads, bridges, rail transportation and water infrastructure. But the bill remains before the House, which voted last month to while setting a September 27 deadline to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill and send it to Mr. Biden's desk.
Both chambers have also approved a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint, which unlocks the process Democrats are using to approve the spending package without Republican support. The text of the larger proposal is still being drafted by relevant congressional committees, though some moderate Democrats have taken issue with its price tag.
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia called last weekon the legislation to better evaluate the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic and determine the effects of inflation.
Democratic Congressman Tom Suozzi of New York also said Tuesday he will not support any changes to the tax code that does not restore the state and local tax deduction, a cap on which was part of the GOP's 2017 tax reform legislation. The House Ways and Means Committee is set to advance the tax portion of the package in the coming days.
While Democrats control both the House and Senate, their margins are slim, and a few defections from supporting the $3.5 trillion plan could tank it.
Asked on Tuesday how he is going to get Democrats to agree on the infrastructure bill, Mr. Biden told reporters at the White House "the sun's going to come out tomorrow."
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