FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday surveyed the devastation of hurricane-devastated Florida and vowed to mobilize federal government power to help rebuild while speaking to local residents alongside Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential Enemy of 2024, comforted .
Both men stated that they would put politics aside for the time being.
“Today we have one job and one job only, and that is to make sure the people of Florida get everything they need to make a full and thorough recovery,” Biden said in that southwest Florida community that is bearing the brunt of Ians attack carried.
“It’s going to be a hell of a long time, hopefully without any obstacles in the way,” he said. “Later, when the TV cameras are further along, we’ll still be here with you.”
Earlier, DeSantis and his wife Casey greeted President and First Lady Jill Biden as they arrived at Fisherman’s Wharf, where homes and businesses lay in rubble and debris after Hurricane Ian smashed through last week.
Biden and DeSantis spoke alone beside a boat that the storm had lifted into a cafe, then moved separately among residents hard-hit by the hurricane. Biden hugged a woman.
The extent of the devastation was immense. Biden’s motorcade drove past wind-shorn trees, some uprooted, others with branches tossed back by the storm. Fields off the highway were still flooded, forming stagnant lagoons.
Signs for shops and restaurants were blown away; destroyed mattresses were piled up in the neighborhood streets, a building was toppled to one side like a chess piece. An armada of workers and repair vehicles struggled to recover.
Hurricane Ian has confirmed that at least 84 people have died, including 75 in Florida, and many are still waiting for power to be restored. Ian’s 150 mph winds and last week’s violent storm surge cost Florida $2.6 million in electricity. Many people are still unable to get food and water.
At a briefing with local officials, Biden stressed that rebuilding would take months or years.
“The only thing I can assure you is that the federal government will be here until it’s done,” Biden said.
With the midterm elections just a month away, the crisis brought political rivals together around a common cause, at least temporarily.
DeSantis and Senator Rick Scott were among Biden’s most prominent Republican critics. Both, along with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and other state and local officials, accompanied the president on Wednesday.
Before the trip, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre suggested it would be inappropriate to focus on political differences.
“There will be plenty of time, plenty of time to discuss differences between the president and the governor — but now is not the time,” Jean-Pierre told reporters at a White House briefing. “When it comes to delivering and making sure the people of Florida have what they need, especially in the wake of Hurricane Ian, we are one. We work as a unit.”
Before the storm hit, the President had planned to visit the cities of Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Florida last week to underscore his efforts to strengthen Social Security and Medicaid. Biden has accused Scott of wanting to end both programs by suggesting federal laws should expire every five years, though the Florida senator has said he wants to preserve the programs.
Biden and DeSantis have had a variety of disagreements over the past few years over how to fight COVID-19, immigration policy, and more. In recent weeks, they have been at odds over the governor’s decision to take migrants to Democrat strongholds on planes or buses, a practice Biden has called “reckless.”
The hurricane changed the purpose and tone of Biden’s first trip to Florida this year, which was in an area ravaged by winds and surging water. Boats, including huge yachts, capsized and were thrown inland.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell told reporters on Air Force One that the cost of rebuilding will be enormous: “It will certainly be in the billions and perhaps one of the costlier disasters we’ve seen in many years.”
DeSantis made a point Wednesday to commend FEMA along with local and state agencies, saying the coordination between them has been exceptional during Ian’s aftermath.
“There was less bureaucracy holding us back on this case than probably anyone I’ve seen,” DeSantis said at a briefing in Matlacha. He gave a 30-minute lunchtime briefing on post-hurricane recovery efforts, including the news that running water has been restored in much of the affected zone.
The White House’s message of bipartisan unity differs from Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, who at times threatened to withhold aid from Democratic officials who criticized him, including Democratic governors. Gavin Newsom from California and Andrew Cuomo from New York.
Trump threatened to withhold federal money from California after wildfires, saying his state officials were responsible for the deadly fires, tweeting in 2018, “Billions of dollars are given every year with so many deaths, all because of gross mismanagement of forests.” Remedy now or no more Fed payments!”
Politician responses to natural disasters have the power to make or break political careers.
As Florida’s governor for eight years, Jeb Bush consistently responded to a hurricane parade and was rewarded with sky-high approval ratings. The response of President George W. Bush and the Louisiana legislature to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 hangs over their legacy.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the Republican who welcomed President Barack Obama to his state just days before the 2012 general election to survey the damage from Hurricane Sandy, said that when natural disasters hit, “the best policy strategy your work is not having a political strategy.”
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https://wgntv.com/news/nexstar-media-wire/floridas-island-dwellers-dig-out-from-ians-destruction-as-biden-vows-full-recovery%EF%BF%BC%EF%BF%BC/ Florida Islanders dig up from Ian’s destruction as Biden vows full recovery￼￼