WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden traveled to Houston on Friday to investigate the damage from the recent historic winter storm in Texas, the President’s first trip as Commander-in-Chief to a state following a natural disaster.
Biden arrived at the Harris County Emergency Operations Center in Houston Friday afternoon, where he met with state and local officials about recovery efforts after the storm left millions of Texans without electricity, heat, and water for days.
“It’s a damn good operation,” Biden said, thanking rescue workers and local officials. “You save lives.”
Millions of Texans continue to be advised to boil their drinking water, and many also face food shortages and sky-high electricity bills.
In Harris County alone, officials told Biden that 1.5 million residents had lost electricity and heat and 3.5 million water. More than 10,000 households reported burst pipes, officials said, and the county was still working to repair the damaged homes. Harris County Emergency Operations Center had delivered more than 12 million bottles of water to residents, officials said Biden.
Biden was joined on Friday by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican who has been criticized by a number of Democrats for his reaction to the storm.
Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, joined Biden in the emergency room and Democratic Representatives Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee, who represent the Houston area.
Later on, Biden is expected to visit a grocery bank in Houston where he will meet with volunteers. First Lady Jill Biden, who traveled with the President on Friday, is expected to help pack food and water for people who are still struggling to recover from the disaster.
Before Biden leaves the state on Friday evening, he will give a speech at the NRG Stadium, one of the federal community’s vaccination centers set up by his government.
The White House said part of Biden’s decision to specifically visit Houston was that the president could also see one of the Covid-19 mass vaccination centers.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters en route to Houston that R-Texas Senator Ted Cruz was not invited to join the president on Friday. Cruz lives in Houston.
“There was no invitation or invitation to participate,” said Psaki. “There are a number of members from both parties taking part in the trip and joining the president.”
Cruz, who spent Friday in Florida at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, was mocked after traveling to Cancun, Mexico with his family last week when Texans were in crisis. Cruz returned home within hours of landing in Mexico, apologizing for the trip, which he described as a “mistake”.
Biden, who declared a major disaster in Texas last weekend, said he was interested in visiting the state but would wait until his presence did not weigh on recovery efforts.
Psaki said Biden asked the acting FEMA Director last week when it was appropriate for him to visit because “he likes to see the details and see things in person, and he wants to see the public get involved and leads these conversations. “
“It is important to him to hear directly from people what they need,” said Psaki.
At least 40 people died as a result of the storm in Texas, according to The Associated Press.