What to Know in Washington: Biden Steps-Up Maui Disaster Efforts

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President Joe Biden is aiming to show the federal government is there for Maui residents as he visits the fire-stricken island today amid criticism of his response to the historic disaster.

The president and First Lady Jill Biden plan to take a helicopter tour of areas destroyed, receive a briefing on recovery efforts, meet with federal, state and local officials and offer words of comfort to first responders and survivors during a community meeting.

Ahead of that meeting, Biden will deliver remarks paying respect to those who died and reflect on the damage to Maui, according to an administration official. He will also name Bob Fenton, the top FEMA official in the western US, the chief federal response coordinator to oversee the long-term recovery, according to the official.

“Jill and I are eager to meet with the brave first responders in Lahaina tomorrow, to spend time with families and community members, and witness firsthand what will be required for the community to recover. We will be here as long as it takes for Maui,” Biden said yesterday in a statement.

Photo by Yuki Iwamura/AFP via Getty Images
A FEMA agent is seen as search and recovery team members check charred buildings and cars in the aftermath of the Maui wildfires.

The visit marks a pivotal moment for Biden in the face of one of the worst domestic crises of his presidency, but the president’s quiet posture undercut his image as a compassionate leader.

Yet Biden could face tough questions not only about his personal reaction but the government’s response. Some Maui residents have said recovery efforts have appeared disorganized and reported difficulty in accessing food, shelter and assistance funds.

“We are going to need help over a long period of time. Because as bad as this looks from the pictures and the video, it’s actually worse on the ground,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said in an interview with Bloomberg News.

The president will also face a challenge when he returns to Washington to secure more funding for the response to the Maui fires and other natural disasters. While the White House is asking Congress for $12 billion in disaster relief funds for the next fiscal year as part of an emergency spending request, the package’s chances of passage are threatened by House Republican opposition to its Ukraine aid provisions.

Even more money could be needed for disaster recovery depending on the costs of the response to the Maui fires and other potential extreme weather events, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation. Read more from Jordan Fabian.


  • Biden is traveling to Hawaii just as Southern California and parts of Nevada deal with potentially catastrophic rain from a rare Pacific storm. Biden says he continues to be briefed on preparedness efforts and Tropical Storm Hilary’s potential impact, including flooding, according to White House statement. Read more.
  • Growing extreme-weather risks mean Biden’s expected request for billions in extra disaster-relief funding might not be enough for the next fiscal year, Criswell said. Read more.

GOP Hopefuls Prep for Debate

Trump Says He Will ‘Not Be Doing the Debates’ With Rivals

Donald Trump said yesterday that he will skip primary debates against other Republican presidential candidates, citing a new poll showing him with a wide lead over his rivals for the GOP nomination.


  • But Trump’s lead over his Republican primary rivals widened in a poll conducted after his fourth indictment, showing the kind of support that’s prompting him to deride this week’s GOP debate. Read more.
  • Meanwhile, a federal judge in Washington won’t release records about the secret court fight prosecutors waged to force one of Trump’s lawyers to testify and turn over documents in the criminal probe into the former president’s handling of classified information. Read more
  • Lawyers for Trump and Waltine “Walt” Nauta accused prosecutors of improperly using a Washington grand jury to gather evidence after they were charged in Florida with mishandling classified information and obstructing an investigation. Read more.
  • Trump can’t delay a defamation case by writer E. Jean Carroll to pursue an appeal, a judge ruled, keeping a January trial date amid a raft of other cases against the former president as he runs to regain the White House. Read more.

RNC Disputes Miami Mayor Suarez’s Claim He Qualified for Debate

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez says he has qualified for the first Republican presidential debate, but according to a person familiar with the RNC’s requirements, the campaign hasn’t yet met the thresholds for him to take the stage.

Republican 2024 Hopeful Scott Eyes Debate to Electrify Campaign

Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) will get his strongest opportunity yet to woo intrigued voters and donors when he takes the stage at the Republican presidential primary debate in Milwaukee on Wednesday.

More on the 2024 Race

DeSantis’s Campaign Isn’t Fully In Charge of DeSantis’s Campaign

The driving force behind Ron DeSantis’s presidential bid isn’t his official campaign but rather a well-funded outside group that’s handling crucial day-to-day activities — powered by a cadre of seasoned political advisers and a deep cash trove.

  • The Florida governor met privately on Friday with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who has publicly rebuked DeSantis’s chief rival, Trump. Read more.
  • Republican presidential candidates are coming to Atlanta to seek Kemp’s endorsement from a must-win battleground for Republicans. And he’s being talked about as a possible vice presidential candidate — if he doesn’t run for president himself. Read more.

Biden Economics Aide Departs, Expected to Join 2024 Campaign

Grace Landrieu, a longtime aide to President Joe Biden, is departing the White House and expected to join his reelection campaign.

  • The shift comes as Biden’s effort to sell Bidenomics faces a problem with voters: Its name. Read more.

Pence Wouldn’t Reappoint Powell, Eyes Shelton for Fed Board

Mike Pence said if he is elected president he wouldn’t reappoint Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell when his term expires in 2026, and floated economist Judy Shelton for the central bank’s board.

GOP Presidential Hopeful Ramaswamy Sued Over Strive’s Practices

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Chris Christie Is Absolutely, Totally 100% Anti-Trump. For Now

Once a Trump endorser and VP contender, the GOP presidential hopeful is trying to stand out by attacking the oft-indicted front-runner. Will anyone buy it?

What Else We’re Reading

Pelosi Says Jan. 6 Attack Gives Her a Reason to Stay in Congress

Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol has given her a reason to remain in Congress, but she hasn’t yet decided whether to run again next year.

Border Crossings to US Rise as Migrants Navigate Biden Policies

Migrant encounters at the southern border are ticking upward again after plunging earlier this summer — a shift that will intensify scrutiny of the Biden administration’s latest immigration policies.

Lawmakers Urge Against Export Controls Working Group With China

Republican lawmakers are warning Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo not to let China weigh in on US export controls during her upcoming trip to Beijing, where she may announce a working group with her Chinese counterparts focused on planned American regulation of investment in high-tech Chinese companies.

  • China is intensifying a crackdown on alleged spies for the US, saying it found another case of an individual informing the CIA, adding to a series of espionage accusations between the two nations. Read more.

To contact the reporter on this story: Katrice Eborn in Washington at keborn@bgov.com

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