United States president Joe Biden announced a disaster declaration for Texas, clearing the way for more aid in a crippling winter storm. Millions of residents in the United States’ biggest oil and gas producer have dealt with power outages, and nearly half of Texans struggled on Friday with disrupted water service. Nearly two dozen deaths have been attributed to the storm and a cold snap.
The first crisis to develop in Biden’s one-month-old term is testing the president’s pledge to govern on behalf of Americans who opposed his candidacy, a campaign commitment the Democrat intended to contrast with Republican former President Donald Trump.
Now, the White House is working closely with Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who did not initially acknowledge Biden’s November election win. In December, Texas state officials tried, and failed, to overturn Biden’s national election win in court.
“As I said when I ran, I’m going to be a president for all Americans,” said Biden, who lost in Texas to Trump. “If I can do it without creating a burden for folks, I plan on going,” he said. A presidential visit to the state is being planned for next week.
Biden has asked his team to expedite Texas’s request for a disaster declaration, clearing the way for more federal resources, press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
The White House later said in a statement that Biden called the acting administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Bob Fenton, to let him know he would approve Texas’ request as soon as the agency forwards a formal request.
The White House has been in touch with mayors in Texas cities, including Houston and Austin, and officials in Dallas and other counties, to make sure they were connected to FEMA and have access to federal government resources, an administration official said separately.