Washington

Biden pitches massive spending packages during tour of wildfire damage

President Biden took his pitch for a massive spending bill to the West Coast on Monday, saying the federal money will combat climate change and reduce wildfires.

In his first trip to western states as president, Mr. Biden surveyed areas that have been devastated by one of the worst wildfire seasons in U.S. history, surveying the damage in Idaho and California.

Mr. Biden escalated his climate change rhetoric during both stops but also said his $3.5 trillion spending package has the prescription to prevent wildfires.

“We can’t ignore the reality that these wildfires are being supercharged by climate change. It isn’t about red states or blue states. It’s about fires — just fires,” he said in remarks near Sacramento.

While in California, Mr. Biden toured the devastation wrought by the Caldor Fire with Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The president will give a campaign speech in support of Mr. Newsom who is facing a recall election in California on Tuesday.
 
The president observed the fire damage from the Marine One helicopter as it soared over Northern California.

Earlier Monday, Mr. Biden was in Idaho to visit the National Interagency Fire Center, which coordinates the federal government’s response to wildfires.

Both stops were the backdrop for Mr. Biden to pitch the climate change initiatives that are part of two infrastructure bills he is trying to get through Congress.

The Senate passed the first part of Mr. Biden’s economic agenda, a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill focused on rebuilding bridges, roads and the like.

Democrats are still negotiating the details of the second package, which will cost $3.5 trillion and also includes such liberal wish list items as an illegal-immigrant amnesty and various forms of social-welfare spending.

The second package would offer clean-energy tax credits for individuals and businesses, create a civilian climate corps, and establish a clean-energy electricity standard. It would also include billions for wildfire preparedness, expand the number of public water sources and improve forest management, to prevent wildfires.

“Reality has a way of working its way in and well, you know, the reality is that we have a global warming problem. A serious global warming problem,” Mr. Biden said in his Boise stop. “It’s consequential and what’s going to happen is that things aren’t going to go back to what it was before.”

More than 6,800 wildfires large and small have burned roughly 1.7 million acres with California alone this year, making it one of the worst fire seasons in history.

The blazes have been ignited by extremely hot weather and a lengthy drought.

While Mr. Biden and some scientists have blamed climate change on the raging fires, others have attributed wildfires to other causes. Carelessly discarded cigarette butts, improperly extinguished campfires and lightning have all influenced the frequency and intensity of wildfires.

Others have blamed bureaucratic red tape for stopping controlled burns, which are used to prevent forest fires by eliminating dead tree limbs, leaves and other debris before they become too hot and spark a wildfire.

Rep. Bruce Westerman, Arkansas Republican and ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, called on Mr. Biden to implement common-sense practices, including controlled burns, to stop wildfires.

“We can all agree that wildfires are horrific and should not be happening at their current scale and frequency. Yet when my Republican colleagues and I suggest scientifically-proven ways to mitigate them, we are met with silence and indifference,” he said in a statement.

“Talk is cheap; action is harder. We’ve got to start using common-sense practices on our nation’s forests so we don’t rinse and repeat the same cycle year after year,” he said.

But some states in the west have ordered fewer controlled burns, because they can hurt water and air quality.

Controlled burns also can be risky — one by the Colorado State Forest Service in 2021 led to three deaths and 23 houses destroyed.

During his remarks in Idaho, Mr. Biden has touted his activation of the Defense Production Act to boost supplies to firefighters.

It is the Biden administration’s second invocation of the arcane World War II-era law. Earlier this year, Mr. Biden used to increase vaccine supplies.

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