Biden blames Texas officials for delayed federal response to Beryl

Biden blames Texas officials for delayed federal response to Beryl
1 week 13 hours 33 minutes ago Tuesday, July 09 2024 Jul 9, 2024 July 09, 2024 6:58 PM July 09, 2024 in News - Texas news
Source: https://www.texastribune.org/
President Joe Biden gives remarks during a visit to Brownsville on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. Credit: Eli Hartman/The Texas Tribune

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Texas is receiving federal aid for Hurricane Beryl later than needed because state leaders were slow to request an official disaster declaration from the White House, President Joe Biden told the Houston Chronicle Tuesday.

With Gov. Greg Abbott out of the country on an economic development trip in Asia, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has served as acting governor amid the storm, making him responsible for putting in the state’s request for aid. A White House spokesperson told the Chronicle that officials had tried multiple times to reach Abbott and Patrick, and Biden said he only connected with Patrick Tuesday, after which he issued the disaster declaration.

Patrick denied Biden's account, writing on social media that the president was "falsely accusing" him of being unreachable.

"I am disappointed that President Biden is turning Hurricane Beryl into a political issue," Patrick said, describing a "cordial call" with Biden earlier Tuesday in which the president granted his request for a major disaster declaration.

Patrick added that state officials "needed to determine what our outstanding needs were" before they could make an official request.

"We were working on that with local officials as we traveled the impacted areas," Patrick said. "As I was being briefed today, the president called."

Abbott's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The disaster declaration includes 121 counties, including Harris County and other parts of southeast Texas that were hit hard by Beryl, Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

Biden, a Democrat, has frequently butted heads with Abbott, Patrick and other Texas GOP leaders over immigration policy and other areas. Politics have also regularly infused the response to past Texas storms, most recently when then-Land Commissioner George P. Bush, a Republican, feuded with then-Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, over Hurricane Harvey aid. Bush also accused the Biden administration of using "red tape" and "complex regulations" to slow the distribution of aid.

The political sparring came as millions of Texans remained without power as temperatures climbed into the 90s in parts of the state, one day after Hurricane Beryl’s deadly winds and rain caused widespread damage.

In a statement early Tuesday evening, Biden noted that FEMA resources had been on the ground in Texas “since well before the storm,” including “pre-positioned generators” aimed at mitigating power outages.

James Barragán contributed to this report.

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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2024/07/09/greg-abbott-dan-patrick-biden-beryl-federal-texas/.

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