President Biden's visit to hurricane-ravaged communities in Florida has become embroiled in a political dispute with Governor Ron DeSantis. White House officials expressed surprise and disappointment that DeSantis has decided not to meet with the president during his visit. DeSantis' spokesman, Jeremy Redfern, explained that the logistics of arranging a meeting amidst ongoing recovery efforts would be too disruptive. However, the White House had previously stated that there was an agreed location for the president's visit and that security preparations weren't an issue.
During a gaggle on Air Force One, reporters questioned FEMA Director Deanne Criswell and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre about the situation. Jean-Pierre expressed that there was no indication that DeSantis would not be meeting with Biden and referred to the agreed-upon location in Live Oak, where the President will be visiting. Criswell, who surveyed the damage with DeSantis earlier in the week, emphasized that the area chosen for Biden's visit was mutually agreed upon and that the power had been restored, roads were open, and access was not hindered.
When asked if politics played a role in DeSantis' decision, the officials declined to comment, stating that they would let the governor speak for himself. Jean-Pierre emphasized that the President's visit was not about politics but about showing support for the affected communities. She stated, "It doesn't matter if it's a red state or a blue state, the president's going to show up and be there for the community. And that's what you're seeing."
The president's announcement of his visit came during a press conference at FEMA headquarters in Washington, D.C. Biden also called on Congress to pass more disaster relief funding, raising his original request from $12 billion to $16 billion. DeSantis, however, argued that the damage and loss of life caused by Hurricane Idalia were not comparable to previous hurricanes in the state, such as Hurricane Ian, which left 149 people dead in the heavily populated Fort Myers area.
As President Biden arrived in Florida, questions regarding the lack of a meeting with DeSantis continued. The governor's spokesperson reaffirmed that there were no plans for a meeting. Meanwhile, the White House maintained that Biden's visit had been planned in close coordination with FEMA and state and local leaders to ensure no impact on response operations.
During his visit, President Biden will be conducting an aerial tour of the affected areas and will meet with federal, state, and local officials, as well as first responders. The political divide between Biden and DeSantis marks a departure from their previous interactions during other disaster events. DeSantis, who is running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is aiming to differentiate himself from the Biden administration's policies.
The political ramifications of the hurricane response are significant for both Biden and DeSantis. Biden's administration has requested additional funding to address natural disasters, highlighting the increasing costs imposed by climate change. DeSantis, on the other hand, is seeking to strengthen his position in the Republican primary but currently lags behind former President Donald Trump. As the situation unfolds, it remains to be seen how the political landscape will be affected by this dispute.
themes: Donald Trump War Florida Washington