WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will travel to Houston Friday to survey the damage from Texas' recent historic winter storm, the president’s first trip as commander-in-chief to a state following a natural disaster.
Biden is expected to spend most of the day with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, according to the White House. A number of Democrats criticized the governor’s response to the storm, which left millions without power, heat and water for days.
The president is scheduled to tour an emergency operations center in Harris County as well as a Houston food bank, where he’ll meet with volunteers. The first lady is also expected to help package food and water for people still struggling to recover from the disaster.
Before leaving the state this evening, Biden will deliver remarks at a Covid-19 vaccination facility at NRG Stadium.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Thursday that the purpose of the trip is to work to get relief to people as soon as possible rather than holding any policy discussions stemming from the storm.
“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 at her daily news briefing. "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."
“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 added. "But right now we're focused on getting relief to the people in the state, getting updated briefings, tapping into all of the levers of federal government.”
The administration has declared a major disaster in more than 100 counties, she said.
At least 40 people in Texas have died as a result of the storm, according to The Associated Press.