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Biden to meet with DeSantis in Florida as he surveys Hurricane Ian damage

(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden will meet with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday as he visits the state in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed Biden will meet with the Republican governor, who has often been a political adversary, as he and first lady Jill Biden assess the storm’s damage in Fort Myers.

There, Jean-Pierre said, Biden will meet with small business owners and local residents impacted by the historic storm. He will also thank officials who are providing life-saving assistance, working to restore power and are removing debris.

“Gov. DeSantis, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell and other state and local officials will also provide the president with an operational briefing on the current response and recovery efforts,” Jean-Pierre told reporters.

But Jean-Pierre deflected when asked if DeSantis would join Biden for any public remarks, saying the governor has a “busy schedule” and she couldn’t speak to “where he’s going to be at every step of the way.”

Wednesday’s visit will be the first face-to-face meeting between Biden and DeSantis since the governor ordered migrants flown from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, which Jean-Pierre continued to slam as a “political stunt.”

“Obviously the president laid out his concerns and outrage by the stunt,” she said, adding: “There will be plenty of time to discuss differences between the president and the governor but now is not the time.”

Biden and DeSantis have momentarily put politics aside to respond to Hurricane Ian, which is shaping up to be one of Florida’s deadliest and costliest storms in decades. Making landfall as a Category 4 storm, Ian leveled the coast, knocking out power to millions. At least 100 people have died due to the storm.

Biden and DeSantis leaders spoke several times before and after the storm hit as Biden issued emergency declarations. On Saturday, Biden signed a major disaster declaration for the state, which makes more funding available to help with Florida’s recovery.

“As I’ve made clear: At times like these, our nation comes together, put aside our political differences and get to work,” Biden said Monday as he spoke about his upcoming trip. “We show up when we’re needed. Because if we lost our home, if we lost a loved one, we’d hope that people would show up for us as well.”

DeSantis has said he appreciated “FEMA’s responsiveness to this disaster” and has thanked the Biden administration for its emergency declarations.

The White House over the weekend released a fact sheet touting the federal response to Hurricane Ian. More than 3,400 federal response personnel are on the ground in Florida, the White House said, and the Army Corps of Engineers has now deployed over 550 personnel to conduct engineering evaluations about the safety of bridges, roads, and other infrastructure needs.

The Florida trip comes just days after Biden traveled to Puerto Rico, which was hit by Hurricane Fiona last month.

The Category 1 storm hit the island on Sept. 18, knocking out power for most of the U.S. territory’s residents and killing at least 13 people. As of Biden’s visit, more than two weeks after the storm, more than 100,000 people were still without power.

During his visit to Port of Ponce, on the south side of Puerto Rico, Biden announced more than $60 million in federal funding to help the island better prepare for extreme weather events in the wake of Hurricane Fiona.

“Puerto Rico is a strong place, and Puerto Ricans are strong people,” Biden said as he spoke at the Port of Ponce. “But even so, you have had to bear so much and more than need be, and you haven’t gotten the help in a timely way.”

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