WASHINGTON (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will visit Houston today to check on the state’s recovery from the winter storms.
According to the White House, the President and First Lady will tour the damage with Governor Greg Abbott.READ MORE: Texas Legislators Pass New Congressional Map Shoring Up GOP Power
The visit to Harris County will be the president’s first trip to a major disaster site since he took office a little over a month ago.
Severe winter weather across the South over Valentine’s Day weekend battered multiple states, with Texas bearing the brunt of unseasonably frigid conditions that caused widespread power outages and frozen pipes that burst and flooded homes. Millions of residents lost heat and running water.
At least 40 people in Texas died as a result of the storm and, although the weather has returned to more normal temperatures, more than 1 million residents were still under orders to boil water before drinking it.
Biden is expected to visit a food bank and meet with local leaders to discuss the storm, relief efforts and progress toward recovery.
While in Houston, the Democratic president also planned to visit a mass coronavirus vaccination center run by the federal government. Biden on Thursday commemorated the 50 millionth COVID-19 vaccination since he took office, halfway toward his goal of 100 million shots by his 100th day in office. That celebration followed a moment of silence to mark the passage earlier this week of 500,000 U.S. deaths blamed on the disease.
The post-storm debate in Texas has centered on the state maintaining its own electrical grid and lack of storm preparation, including weatherization of key infrastructure. Some state officials initially blamed the blackouts on renewable energy even though Texas is a heavy user of fossil fuels like oil and gas.
The White House said Biden’s purpose in visiting would be to support, not scold.READ MORE: Carroll ISD Parents Pack School Board Meeting Following Administrator's Secretly-Recorded Holocaust Comment
“The president doesn’t view the crisis and the millions of people who’ve been impacted by it as a Democratic or Republican issue,” White House press secretary Jen 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.”
Psaki said policy discussions about better weatherization and preparation could come later, “but right now, we’re focused on getting relief to the people of the state.”
Biden has declared a major disaster in Texas and asked federal agencies to identify additional resources to aid the recovery. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent emergency generators, bottled water, ready-to-eat meals and blankets.
Biden wanted to make the trip last week, but said at the time that he held back because he didn’t want his presence and entourage to detract from the recovery effort.
No Texas lawmakers were expected to hitch a ride home aboard Air Force One due to “limitations on space” on the plane, Psaki said.
It was unclear whether Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz would join Biden in the state. Members of Congress often tag along when a president visits their state.
The state’s other senator, Republican John Cornyn, planned to join Biden, a spokesman said.
The are no plans for the Bidens to visit North Texas or other parts of the state.MORE NEWS: Police From All Over Rally To Lift Spirits Of North Texas Child Battling Cancer
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)