President Biden is planning to travel to Puerto Rico on Monday and to Florida on Wednesday to tour hurricane damage in two places that have been significantly affected, the White House announced late Saturday night.
The president, who will be joined by first lady Jill Biden, has spoken repeatedly about the devastation from the hurricanes — first when Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico nearly two weeks ago and then in recent days as Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida — and his desire to visit each place.
“Our hearts … are heavy,” Biden said of hurricane damage on Saturday night, speaking in remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Phoenix Awards. “We owe Puerto Rico a hell of a lot more than they’ve already gotten.”
He said the nation would do “whatever it takes to help search and rescue, recovery, and rebuilding.”
“It’s going to take a long time, so we cannot tire,” he said. “Whatever it takes, I mean it, whatever it takes.”
It will be Biden’s first trip as president to Puerto Rico, and could provide a contrast from a memorable visit by President Donald Trump in 2017 when he tossed rolls of paper towels into a cheering crowd in San Juan, after the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria.
It is unclear whether on his trip to Florida the president will meet with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), who has been a political adversary but also someone he has spoken to several times amid the storm. Biden was scheduled to be in Florida Tuesday for a rally with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist, who is running to unseat DeSantis, but it had to be canceled due to the hurricane.
Biden and DeSantis — who have publicly rebuked one another over policy and politics — in recent days have maintained a more cordial relationship amid the disaster. Biden has called the governor several times, and DeSantis has said that Florida is getting what it needs from the federal government.
“We really appreciate FEMA’s responsiveness to this disaster,” he told one of Biden’s appointees at a news conference on Friday. “So thank you very much and thank you for being here.”
The two also came together last year after the collapse of a condominium tower in Surfside, Fla. But since then, the relationship has been far frostier until this past week.
“He complimented me. He thanked me for the immediate response we had,” Biden said Thursday of a recent conversation with DeSantis. “It’s not a matter of my disagreements with him on other items.”
Asked if he planned to meet the governor during his trip, Biden responded, “I’ll meet with everybody who’s around. The answer is yes, if he wants to meet.”