While President Joe Biden was wrapping up his remarks on a bipartisan infrastructure deal compromise at a press conference, Vice President Harris awkwardly had to remind him to address the deadly Florida condo collapse as he attempted to leave the podium.
Biden spoke to the press at length on Thursday as he celebrated a $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal that will play out over eight years. Moderate Republicans and Democrats finally reached an agreement on the plan, however, it faces stiff opposition in the Senate and its passage is in doubt. The president spoke on the issue and voting rights before trying to wrap up the presser.
But he seemed to forget the tragedy that had just occurred in Florida where a 12-story building collapsed, leaving at least one dead and 99 people missing. As Biden turned to leave, stating, “I’ve got to get to a helicopter,” Harris approached him and whispered to the president an apparent reminder of the catastrophe and highlighted his forgetfulness. The exchange ended with Harris whispering, “Florida, yeah.”
“Oh, yes. I apologize,” Biden embarrassingly said and turned back to the microphone as Harris backed away. “Yes, thank you, Madame Vice President.”
(Video Credit: The White House)
Biden attempted to regain his footing, stating that he would send federal aid to the site if it was needed. He claimed to be waiting on a formal request from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“We are on top of it,” Biden proclaimed. “We are ready to move, from the federal resources, immediately — immediately, if in fact we’re asked for it … FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] is down there taking a look at what’s needed, including from, everything from — if the rest of those buildings have to be evacuated as well; finding housing for those people; making sure they have the capacity to both have a place to — to shelter, and food to eat, etc.”
“I’ve spoken with, coincidentally, the mayor of Miami-Dade, was in my office yesterday — not about that, obviously — but I had a long discussion with her today,” Biden remarked. “I’ve also spoken with, we’ve been in contact with congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz who’s in that district. We’ve gotten in touch with FEMA. They’re ready to go. They’re down inspecting what they think is needed, but I’m waiting for the governor to ask for a declared emergency, especially as we learn what might happen to the rest of the building.”
Biden claimed that his chief of staff, Ron Klain, “has been deeply involved in this from the very beginning. We got the Cabinet involved in it now in terms of dealing with FEMA, we’re working on it.”
“I made it clear that I say to the people of Florida: Whatever help you want that the federal government can provide, we’re waiting,” Biden declared. “Just ask us; we’ll be there. We’ll be there.”
In the shadow of the Florida tragedy, earlier in the day, Biden announced the infrastructure compromise in a push to promote it as it now makes its way through Congress: “We had a really good meeting and to answer your direct question, we have a deal,” the president informed reporters. “I think it’s really important, we’ve all agreed that, none of us got all what we wanted, I clearly didn’t get all I wanted, they gave more than I think maybe they were inclined to give in the first place.”
To pay for the deal, Democrats plan to go after those allegedly avoiding taxes. They will also ostensibly redirect unused unemployment insurance and $126 billion in COVID relief funds.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) commented that the two parties agreed on the “price tag, the scope and how to pay for it.”
Along with Collins, other senators that helped craft the bill included Republican Sens. Mitt Romney, Bill Cassidy, Lisa Murkowski, and Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin, Jeanne Shaheen, Mark Warner, and Jon Tester.
Biden said there was no “guarantee” the package would pass but he is optimistic: “I don’t have any guarantee, but what I do have is a pretty good read over the years of how the Congress or the Senate works,” he said. “And the idea that … because someone’s not going to be able to get every single thing they want, they’re going to vote against some of things I just named, with nothing in here that’s quote-‘bad’ for the environment, bad for the economy, bad for the transportation, is unlikely.”
“Where I come from and in my years in the Senate, the single greatest currency you have is your word, keeping your word,” Biden noted. “Mitt Romney’s never broken his word to me. The senator from Alaska, the senator … from Maine, they’ve never broken their word – they’re friends,” he proclaimed, referring to Republican Senators Murkowski and Collins. “And so the people I was with today are people that I trust.”
“I don’t agree with them on a lot of things, but I trust them when I say this is a deal, we’ll stick to the deal. Just like I doubt you’ll find any one of them who will say they don’t trust me when I say, ‘OK, this is a deal, on these issues, this is a deal we’ll stick with,'” Biden remarked.
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