President Joe Biden, standing side by side with Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, promised the federal government would be there for the state as it rebuilds from Hurricane Ian and steels itself against future storms.
“There’s a lot going on and I think the one thing this has finally ended is the question of whether or not there’s climate change and we should do something about it,” Biden said during remarks in Fort Myers, adding the people of Florida have been in his and first lady Jill Biden’s prayers.
“We’re not leaving. We’re not leaving until this gets done. I promise you that,” the president said.
Prior to the speech, Biden surveyed areas ravaged by the storm, was briefed by officials on the ground and met with locals and small business owners affected by the hurricane.
Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida as a Category 4 storm a week ago, before moving up the eastern U.S. coast. The storm has reportedly killed more than 80 people, though that number is expected to rise as floodwaters recede and rescue teams access new areas.
Both Biden and DeSantis said they have seen strong collaboration between different levels of government in response to the storm.
“I think he’s done a good job,” Biden said when asked about DeSantis’s response to the storm.
Speaking before Biden, DeSantis said, “We are cutting through bureaucracy, we are cutting through red tape,” in order to respond to the storm.
The president and governor stood side by side after DeSantis for months played political foil to Biden. The Republican is considered a top 2024 Republican presidential contender.
Ahead of Biden’s visit to Florida, the White House said a natural disaster is not the time to play politics. Biden and his administration have been in contact with DeSantis throughout the storm and vowed to send whatever aid the state needed.
The collaboration comes a month after DeSantis chartered two planes and flew about 50 migrants under false pretenses from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, a move the White House chided as a theatrical stunt that used people as political pawns. Days later, DeSantis stoked rumors that a second planeload of migrants would be sent to a small airport near Biden’s vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. The plane never came.
Biden, amid the reports, said he welcomed DeSantis to Rehoboth.
“He should come visit. We have a beautiful shoreline,” he said at the time.
In Florida on Wednesday, Biden praised DeSantis’ response and his acknowledgement of the role climate change has played in hurricanes.
“What the governor’s done is pretty remarkable,” Biden said. “First of all, the biggest thing the governor has done and so many others have done is recognizing a thing called global warming. The world is changing. It’s changing. And we have to change.”
The storm is shaping up to be the costliest Florida hurricane since Andrew in 1992, with wind and storm surge damage estimated to be between $28 billion and $47 billion.