Biden’s Maui Wildfire Response Draws House Republican Probe

(Bloomberg) -- House Republicans are launching an investigation of the federal government’s response to the devastating Lahaina wildfire as they bash President Joe Biden’s handling of the blaze that killed at least 115 and incinerated the historic town on the island of Maui.

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The move, announced by the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, comes as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy plans to travel to the disaster site this week. He first floated a probe of the blaze last week.

“The response by federal, state, and local officials to the catastrophic wildfire in Maui raises serious questions, and Americans, especially those impacted by this tragedy, deserve answers,” Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer said in a statement. “As recovery efforts continue, the House Oversight Committee has a responsibility to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used efficiently and effectively.”

Comer, a Kentucky Republican, added that the committee would examine the federal government’s response “and work with other committees of jurisdiction to ensure accountability.”

The Aug. 8 blaze, exacerbated by drought and high winds, reduced the Maui town into rubble and ash, and hundreds are still missing. Criticism of his response has presented Biden with one of his toughest domestic challenges and undercut his public image as a president who has comforted victims of disasters and marshaled the resources of the US government to provide quick assistance.

Earlier: Biden Vows to Help Maui Rebuild After ‘Unimaginable Tragedy’

Republicans have seized on Biden’s public posture over the incident, including telling reporters “no comment,” when asked about the deaths during a vacation in Delaware that has left him open to attacks from political opponents, including Republican primary frontrunner Donald Trump. A White House spokeswoman later said Biden didn’t hear the question.

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the GOP investigation.

Read More: Why Hawaii’s Power Lines Are Suspect In Maui Fire: QuickTake

Biden approved a federal disaster declaration for the island within hours after the fire and has deployed hundreds of federal workers to the area, according to the White House.

He toured the devastated area Aug. 21, when he sought to reassure residents frustrated by his handling of the disaster, which he called an “unimaginable tragedy.”

“Whatever you need, you’re going to get,” Biden told residents. “To the people of Hawaii, we’re with you for as long as it takes. I promise you.”

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