The first couple also plan to use the trip to once again urge Americans to get coronavirus vaccines, now that 50 million shots have already been delivered, with plans to visit a community vaccination site in Houston.
The president opted for a casual Friday outfit, sporting an open collar and loafers, while ditching the pinstripes that he has sported for power meetings in the Oval Office.
The first lady, who has previously traveled with the president aboard a smaller aircraft that also serves as Air Force One, wore a green Veronica Beard blazer that retails for $650.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on February 26, 2021 as they travel to Texas to visit a food bank and emergency operations center. It is the first lady’s first trip on the large 747 Air Force One
Salute: A Marine and three Air Force members see off the plane at Joint Base Andrews, Jill Biden’s first 747 flight as First Lady and Joe Biden’s second as president
Up in the air: Air Force One is wheels up for Houston on the first couple’s trip to the city ht by freezing storms which led to days-long blackouts and boil water orders
Arrival: Marine One and the decoy Marine helicopter come in to land at Joint Base Andrews with the Bidens on board
Arrival: Joe Biden salutes the Air Force officer greeting him and First Lady Jill Biden at Joint Base Andrews to escort them to Air Force One
Descent: Joe Biden holds First Lady Jill Biden’s hand as she comes down the steps of Marine One at Joint Base Andrews
Departure: The First Couple wave before boarding Air Force One. Jill Biden had previously flown once on the plane, when she and then President Obama took it to a community college event in Michigan in 2015
Red carpet: The Bidens walk up the stairs to Air Force One before their first flight together on it
The Bidens are visiting Houston amid the aftermath of the storm that left millions without power and exposed deep flaws in the state’s energy grid and storm preparation.
It is Biden’s first trip to a disaster zone, although he has held numerous events honoring those lost to the coronavirus, including a vigil at the White House to mark 500,000 U.S. deaths.
Biden will visit county emergency operations center, a food bank and a mass vaccination site.
He will be joined by the state Republican governor Greg Abbott and GOP Sen. John Cornyn.
While he was in flight, Sen. Ted Cruz, who was speaking at the conservative CPAC conference in Orlando, attacked leftists as ‘shrill and ‘angry’ and claimed that people were wearing ‘two, three, four’ masks and that the government wanted people to wear masks for 300 years.
Severe winter weather across the South over Valentine’s Day weekend battered multiple states, with Texas bearing the brunt of unseasonably frigid conditions that caused widespread power outages and frozen pipes that burst and flooded homes. Millions of residents lost heat and running water.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden walk across the South Lawn to board Marine One at the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and then on to Houston
Biden is taking his first trip as president to visit a state hit by disaster
Washington skyline: The Bidens walk out to Marine One with the Washington Monument in the background
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden arrive to board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on February 26, 2021
Aides: Jill Biden’s advisor Anthony Bernal and White House deputy chief of staff Jen O’Malley Dillon walk from Marine One to Air Force One
Leaving the White House: Joe Biden acknowledged waiting reporters as he walked out of the South Portico with ths First Lafy but did not speak to them
Salute to the Marine: Joe Biden salutes before boarding Marine One on the White House South Lawn
Ready to fly: Jill and Joe Biden climb into Marine One, with the First Lady greeting the pilots on the flight deck
Departure: The Bidens take the first leg of their journey to Texas, lifting off from the South Lawn and passing the Washington Monument on their way to Joint Base Andrews
At least 40 people in Texas died as a result of the storm and, although the weather has returned to more normal temperatures, more than 1 million residents were still under orders to boil water before drinking it.
Biden plans to meet with local leaders to discuss the storm, relief efforts and progress toward recovery and visit a food bank and meet some volunteers. He is to be accompanied by Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
While in Houston, the Democratic president also planned to visit a mass coronavirus vaccination center at NRG Stadium that is run by the federal government. Biden on Thursday commemorated the 50 millionth COVID-19 vaccination since he took office, halfway toward his goal of 100 million shots by his 100th day in office. That celebration followed a moment of silence to mark the passage earlier this week of 500,000 U.S. deaths blamed on the disease.
President Joe Biden talks to Victoria Legerwood Rivera, an attendance counselor at Stoddert Elementary School in Northwest DC, before receiving her vaccine at an event commemorating the 50 millionth COVID-19 vaccine shot on February 25, 2021 at the South Court Auditorium of Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC
The post-storm debate in Texas has centered on the state maintaining its own electrical grid and lack of storm preparation, including weatherization of key infrastructure. Some state officials initially blamed the blackouts on renewable energy even though Texas is a heavy user of fossil fuels like oil and gas.
The White House said Biden’s purpose in visiting would be to support, not scold.
‘The president doesn´t view the crisis and the millions of people who´ve been impacted by it as a Democratic or Republican issue,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. ‘He views it as an issue where he´s eager to get relief, to tap into all the resources in the federal government, to make sure the people of Texas know we’re thinking about them, we´re fighting for them and we´re going to continue working on this as they´re recovering.’
Psaki said policy discussions about better weatherization and preparation could come later, ‘but right now, we’re focused on getting relief to the people of the state.’
Biden has declared a major disaster in Texas and asked federal agencies to identify additional resources to aid the recovery. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent emergency generators, bottled water, ready-to-eat meals and blankets.
Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said in an interview that he didn’t know what more the federal government could do to help because the failures were at the state level. But Henry, a Republican who is the highest county official in the suburban Houston county, said that if Biden ‘thinks it’s important to visit, then come on down.’
Biden wanted to make the trip last week, but said at the time that he held back because he didn´t want his presence and entourage to detract from the recovery effort.
Biden, whose life has been marked by personal tragedy, is known for his ability to empathize with others and their suffering. His first wife and infant daughter were killed in a car collision in 1972. His son, Beau Biden, died of brain cancer in 2015 at age 46.
No Texas lawmakers were expected to hitch a ride home aboard Air Force One due to ‘limitations on space’ on the plane, Psaki said.
It was unclear whether Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz would join Biden in the state. Members of Congress often tag along when a president visits their state.
The state’s other senator, Republican John Cornyn, planned to join Biden, a spokesman said.
Cruz, an ally of former President Donald Trump and one of a handful of GOP lawmakers who had objected to Congress certifying Biden’s victory, was scheduled to address the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, on Friday morning, a spokesman said.
Cruz was recently criticized for taking his family to Cancun, Mexico, while millions of Texans shivered in their unheated homes during the disaster. Cruz later said the trip was a mistake. Cornyn’s plans were unclear.
Coincidentally, Houston also was the destination for Trump’s first presidential visit to a disaster area in 2017 after Hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic flooding that August.
Trump, who is not known for displays of empathy, did not meet with storm victims on the visit. He returned four days later and urged people who had relocated to a shelter to ‘have a good time.’