Biden rallies West for Newsom, climate crisis and infrastructure

President backs California Governor Gavin Newsom on recall eve

US President Joe Biden shakes hands with California Governor Gavin Newsom after a helicopter tour of the Caldor fire damage in California on September 13, 2021. AFP
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US President Joe Biden embarked on a three-state tour of the western US on Monday, where he is advocating his push to fight climate change and strengthen the country's infrastructure.

The president also hit the campaign trail to back California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, who faces a Republican-led recall vote on Tuesday.

Mr Biden joined Mr Newsom on Monday night in Long Beach to mobilise Democratic voters. The president told supporters that conservative talk show host Larry Elder, the top-polling Republican, is a "clone" of former US president Donald Trump.

"I'm going to make this as simple as I can. You either keep Gavin Newsom as your governor or you'll get Donald Trump," Mr Biden said.

The president's backing comes a week after Vice President Kamala Harris, a former California senator, and former president Barack Obama campaigned for Mr Newsom.

Recent polls indicate that Mr Newsom's position is strengthening. The “no” option on the recall leads “yes” by an average of 15 points, meaning it would take an extraordinarily large polling error for Mr Newsom to lose the recall.

The president also went on to attack Mr Elder's record on minimum wage, Covid-19 and the climate crisis, noting the recent destruction caused by the Caldor fire.

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks at a rally in Sun Valley against the recall election, California. AP

"The climate crisis, isn't going away. It's getting worse," Mr Biden said. "We have to deal with it. Not deny it."

Mr Biden's first stop on his western US tour Monday was at the National Interagency Fire Centre in Boise, Idaho, where he again said fierce wildfires devastating the western US are “a serious global warming problem,” while calling on Congress to approve his infrastructure package.

Millions of hectares of land in several western US states have been burnt already this year, he said.

“It’s not going to get any better than this,” Mr Biden said. “It’s going to get worse.”

As of Sunday, the National Interagency Fire Centre had registered 80 large active fires in the US, including 22 in Idaho, involving more than 22,000 firefighters.

Mr Biden visited Sacramento, California, for his second stop, where he surveyed from a Marine One helicopter flight the damage from the wildfires.

He also held another meeting with local officials, including Mr Newsom.

"Scientists have been warning us for years that extreme weather is going to get more extreme. We're living it in real time now," Mr Biden said during his visit at an emergency services centre in Sacramento.

The president's tour comes a week after he surveyed flood damage from Ida in New Jersey and New York.

Mr Biden said the recent storms and fires across the US were another indication of the need to fight climate change, going so far as to call these extreme weather events a “code red".

“These disasters aren’t going to stop,” he said last week. “They’re only going to come with more frequency and ferocity.”

The White House on Sunday said Mr Biden had approved US disaster funding to help California face the Caldor fire, which has been burning since mid-August.

The president ordered other federal assistance this month after declaring the situation an emergency.

On Tuesday, Mr Biden will continue to Denver, Colorado, where he will push his $3.5 trillion spending plan.

In addition to addressing infrastructure, the plan includes a climate provision involving shifting the US economy from fossil fuels and towards renewable resources such as wind and solar power.

But one of Mr Biden's bills faces a roadblock within his own party. Joe Manchin, a US senator, on Sunday said that members of Congress were unlikely to pass the $3.5tn budget package by the September 27 deadline, but indicated he could support a smaller $1tn to $1.5tn package.

With the Democrats holding a razor-thin majority in the US Senate, Mr Manchin's backing is critical.

During a trip on Saturday to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Mr Biden remained optimistic that the bills would pass.

“I think we're going to get major pieces of legislation through, both on a bipartisan basis,” he said.

Updated: September 14, 2021, 1:24 PM