On Monday, President Joe Biden used his first Western turn in office to contain the wildfires burning in the region as an argument for his $ 3.5 billion rebuilding plans, calling the year-round fires and other extreme weather conditions. as a reality of climate change that the nation can no longer ignore. .
“We cannot ignore the reality that these wildfires are being supercharged by climate change,” Biden said, noting that catastrophic weather does not strike based on partisan ideology. “It is not about red or blue states. It’s about fires. Just fires. ”
With stops in Idaho and California, Biden sought to boost support for his big rebuilding plans, saying every dollar spent on “resilience” would save $ 6 in future costs. And he said rebuilding must go beyond simply restoring damaged systems and instead ensuring that communities can withstand such crises.
“These fires are flashing ‘code red’ for our nation. They are gaining frequency and ferocity, ”Biden said after concluding an aerial tour of the Caldor fire that threatened communities around Lake Tahoe. “We know what we have to do.”
The president’s two-day western turn comes at a critical juncture for a central pillar of his legislative agenda. Capitol legislators are working to gather details of the infrastructure plan more and how to pay for it, a concern not only for Republicans. A key Democratic senator said Sunday that he will not vote for such a large package.
In California, Biden took an aerial tour of land charred by the Caldor fire after receiving a report from officials at the state’s emergency services office. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who faces a recall vote Tuesday, joined Biden for the briefing.
Newsom joked that the emergency center had become his office because the fire season “has just continued,” while amplifying Biden’s message.
“This has been a difficult year and a half,” Newsom said.
During an earlier briefing in Boise at the National Interagency Fire Center, which coordinates the government’s response to wildfires, Biden noted that wildfires start earlier each year and have burned 5.4 million acres this year. “That’s bigger than the entire state of New Jersey,” Biden said.
“The reality is that we have a global warming problem, a serious global warming problem, and it is consequential, and what is going to happen is that things are not going to go back,” he said.
Biden, who visits Denver on Tuesday before returning to Washington, aimed to link the increasing frequency of wildfires, droughts, floods and other extreme weather events with what he and scientists say is a need to invest billions in the fight against climate change, along with a huge expansion. the nation’s social safety net.
The president advocated spending now to make the future effects of climate change less costly, as he did during recent shutdowns in Louisiana, New York and New Jersey, all states that suffered millions of dollars in flooding and other damage and dozens of deaths. after the hurricane. Going.
Biden also praised firefighters for the deadly risks they face and discussed the administration’s recent use of a wartime law to increase the supply of fire hoses from the main supplier to the US Forest Service, Una Oklahoma City nonprofit called NewView Oklahoma.
In bright red Idaho, several opposing groups used Biden’s visit as a way to show resistance to his administration. Candidates for governor from the Republican Party, an anti-vaccine organization and a far-right group were among those who urged people to turn against the president.
More than 1,000 protesters did, gathering in Boise before Biden arrived to express their discontent with his coronavirus plan, the elections and other issues.
Chris Burns, a 62-year-old from Boise, said: “I am against everything that is for Biden.” Burns was especially upset with a new vaccination mandate for 100 million people that Biden announced last week. “He’s acting like a dictator,” Burns said.
The White House is trying to turn the corner after a difficult month dominated by a chaotic and violent withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan and the emerging variant of the COVID-19 delta that have disrupted what the president hoped would mark a summer in which the nation was finally liberated. of the coronavirus.
Biden acknowledged that his poll numbers have fallen in recent weeks, but argued that his schedule is “overwhelmingly popular” with the public. He said he hopes his Republican opponents will attack him rather than debate him on the merits of his spending plan.
In addition to Republican opposition in Congress, Biden needs to overcome the skepticism of two key centrist Democrats in a narrowly divided Senate. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have raised concerns about the size of the $ 3.5 billion spending package.
Manchin said Sunday: “I cannot support $ 3.5 trillion,” citing his opposition to a proposed increase in the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% and vast new social spending planned by the president. Manchin also complained about a process that he says feels rushed.
In California, Biden appeared to respond to those concerned about the size of the plan, saying the cost “may be” up to $ 3.5 trillion and would be spread over 10 years, a period during which the cost is expected to run. economy grow.
The 100-member Senate is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Given the strong opposition from the Republican Party, Biden’s plan cannot be approved by the Senate without the support of Manchin or Sinema.
Climate provisions in Biden’s plans include tax incentives for clean energy and electric vehicles, investments to transition the economy from fossil fuels to renewable sources like wind and solar power, and the creation of a civil climate body.
In June, the Biden administration established a strategy to address the growing threat of wildfires, which included hiring more federal firefighters and implementing new technologies to detect and address fires quickly.
Last month, the president approved a disaster declaration for California, providing federal aid for counties affected by the Dixie and River fires. He issued another disaster declaration for the state just before Monday’s visit to the areas affected by the Caldor fire.