Out West, Biden points to wildfires to push for big spending

President Biden speaks during a visit to the National Interagency Fire Center, Monday in Boise, Idaho.

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — President Biden on Monday pointed to wildfires burning through the West to argue for his $3.5 trillion spending plan, calling year-round fires and other extreme weather a climate change reality the nation can no longer ignore.

Biden spoke during a briefing in Boise, Idaho, while visiting the National Interagency Fire Center, which coordinates the government’s response to wildfires.

Millions of acres of land in several Western states have burned already this year, he noted.

“The reality is we have a global warming problem, a serious global warming problem, and it’s consequential and what’s going to happen is, things are not going to go back,” Biden said.

In his two-day trip, which includes a stop in Colorado today, Biden is looking to connect the dots for Americans between the increasing frequency of wildfires in the West — and other extreme weather events around the country — and a need to invest billions in combating climate change as well as in a vast expansion of the social safety net.

The president argued for spending today to lessen the future effects of climate change, as he did during recent stops in Louisiana, New York and New Jersey — all states that suffered millions of dollars in flood damage and scores of deaths following Hurricane Ida.

In Idaho, Biden claimed that every dollar invested in “resilience” will save $6 down the road.

He discussed the administration’s use in early August of a wartime law to boost supplies of firehoses from the U.S. Forest Service’s primary supplier.

“My message to you is, when we build back, we have to build back better,” Biden said. “It’s not a Democrat thing. It’s not a Republican thing. It’s a weather thing. It’s a reality. It’s serious and we can do this.”

The administration’s use of the Defense Production Act helped an Oklahoma City nonprofit called NewView Oklahoma, which provides the bulk of the U.S. Forest Service’s hoses, obtain needed supplies to produce and ship 415 miles of firehoses.

Biden is on his first trip to the West in office. He flew first to Boise, and afterward stopped in Sacramento, California, to survey wildfire damage and deliver remarks about the federal response.

He closed the day in Long Beach for an election-eve event with California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who faces a recall vote today.

Biden’s Western visit is aimed primarily at drumming up support for his massive $3.5 trillion spending plan by linking it to beating back wildfires and upgrading social programs.

In deep-red Idaho, several opposing groups were leveraging Biden’s trip as a way to show resistance to his administration. GOP gubernatorial candidates, an anti-vaccine organization and a far-right group were among those urging people to turn out against the president.

More than 1,000 protesters gathered in Boise on Monday before Biden’s arrival to express displeasure with his coronavirus plan, the election and other issues.

“I’m against everything Biden is for,” said Chris Burns, a 62-year-old from Boise, adding that he was especially displeased with a sweeping new vaccine mandate for 100 million people that Biden announced last week.

“He’s acting like a dictator,” Burns said.

Biden’s eleventh-hour election pitch in California comes as voters head to the polls to decide whether to recall Newsom and then replace him with Republican talk-show host Larry Elder, who’s seen as the leading GOP alternative, or with any of the dozens of other candidates on the ballot.

The White House is trying to turn the corner after a difficult month consumed by a chaotic and violent withdrawal from Afghanistan and the surging delta COVID-19 variant that have upended what the president had hoped would mark a summer in which the nation was finally freed from the coronavirus.

The president is scheduled to visit Denver today.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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