Texas is being battered by a winter storm, causing rolling electrical blackouts while unplowed streets have people trapped at home without heat or water. At least 2.5 million people don’t have power in the state, several times the number that lost power during Hurricane Harvey, with record winter demand in the cold weather and turbines and other equipment freezing.
In response, President Biden has approved an emergency declaration, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency “to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures,” with 75% federal funding.
Oh. So this is what it’s like to have a president who considers himself responsible for the whole country, not just the states that voted for him.
By contrast, Donald Trump repeatedly delayed disaster aid to parts of the country he didn’t think were sufficiently pro-Trump. After Hurricane Maria, in 2017, Trump repeatedly whined about disaster relief funding for Puerto Rico, assailed Congress for passing too much funding—when in fact it was inadequate—and only changed his tune as the election approached. When Puerto Rico was hit by an earthquake in early 2020, Trump again forced the island to wait for needed aid, while imposing harsh restrictions on how aid could be spent.
California, too, bore the brunt of Trump’s contempt for anyone outside of his own base. In October, 2020, he initially rejected a request for disaster assistance as California fought six major wildfires, before reversing course days later. That came after a 2019 threat to cut off disaster funding related to wildfires. And after a similar threat in 2018. And a January 2019 attempt to cut off aid to victims of the 2018 wildfires.
Puerto Rico waited years, and never got the relief it needed. California got its aid in more timely fashion, but under constant threat and abuse, with the ever-present fear that Trump would really follow through on his threats. Texas got its emergency declaration basically as soon as Gov. Greg Abbott requested it. Because, as Biden repeatedly said during his campaign and in his inauguration speech, he wants to be a “president for all Americans.” Even the ones who didn’t vote for him.
Of course, it’s not just Trump. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn were right out with a letter echoing Abbott's request for aid—yet another reminder that both Cruz and Cornyn voted against relief funds for Hurricane Sandy in 2013.
Texans are being asked to conserve energy by not running major appliances where possible—put off that load of laundry for a few days, for instance—and by turning their heat all the way down to 68, a number that is an indictment of the culture, because seriously, 68 is ridiculously warm, put on a sweater and stop wasting energy.
That said, it’s important to understand that while this is weather that for many parts of the country would not be a particularly big deal, it’s truly a serious problem in an area that does not have the infrastructure to handle significant amounts of snow or very low temperatures. This is absolutely an emergency. It’s a good thing the United States now has a president who will respond appropriately, without threats and tantrums. It’s unfortunate Texas still has senators who won’t return the favor next time the state asking for assistance is one they find it convenient to level culture war attacks on.