Biden tours storm-damaged New York and New Jersey amid infrastructure push

Washington — President Biden traveled to New York and New Jersey on Tuesday to survey damage from Hurricane Ida, which produced deadly flash flooding in the Northeast as the storm tore through the region last week.

The president spent the afternoon in Hillsborough Township, New Jersey; Manville, New Jersey; and Queens, New York, comforting victims, speaking to local officials and taking in the destruction wrought by a storm that killed dozens in the region. The president used his trip to highlight the need for more action on climate change. In New Jersey, the president said scientists have warned that climate change will continue to make weather more extreme. 

“We’re living through it now. We don’t have any more time,” the president said.

Mr. Biden’s visit to the two states comes against the backdrop of his administration’s broader legislative push to revitalize the nation’s infrastructure through a pair of spending packages. The president told reporters before leaving the White House that he is “hoping to see the things that we’re going to be able to fix permanently with the bill that we have in for infrastructure.” 

Congress has spent the past few months crafting a pair of proposals from Mr. Biden that together make up major portions of his domestic policy agenda, a $1 trillion bipartisan bill focusing on physical infrastructure and a second broader $3.5 trillion package that would encompass Democrats’ plans for education, health care, child and elder care and the environment. 

The Senate passed in August the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which injects $550 billion in new federal spending to revitalize roads, bridges, rail transportation and water infrastructure. But the bill remains before the House, which voted last month to advance the measure while setting a September 27 deadline to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill and send it to Mr. Biden’s desk. 

Both chambers have also approved a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint, which unlocks the process Democrats are using to approve the spending package without Republican support. The text of the larger proposal is still being drafted by relevant congressional committees, though some moderate Democrats have taken issue with its price tag.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia called last week for a “strategic pause” on the legislation to better evaluate the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic and determine the effects of inflation.

Democratic Congressman Tom Suozzi of New York also said Tuesday he will not support any changes to the tax code that does not restore the state and local tax deduction, a cap on which was part of the GOP’s 2017 tax reform legislation. The House Ways and Means Committee is set to advance the tax portion of the package in the coming days.

While Democrats control both the House and Senate, their margins are slim, and a few defections from supporting the $3.5 trillion plan could tank it.

Asked how he is going to get Democrats to agree on the infrastructure bill, Mr. Biden told reporters at the White House “the sun’s going to come out tomorrow.”

During his trip, the president will receive a briefing from local officials on the impacts of Hurricane Ida and then tour a neighborhood in Manville, New Jersey. Mr. Biden will then head to Queens, New York, where he will survey storm damage there and deliver remarks on his administration’s response to the story before returning to Washington, D.C.

At least 47 people in the Northeast died after Hurricane Ida brought record rainfall and catastrophic flooding to the region. 

The storm made landfall in Louisiana on August 29 as a Category 4 storm and left scores of residents without power, as well as shortages of gas and water. Mr. Biden visited the area Friday.