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Biden to get aerial view of Baltimore bridge collapse scene

President to meet privately with families of killed construction crew

Marine One takes off from the South Lawn of the White House with President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden on board for a trip to Fort Myers, Fla., to review  Hurricane Ian damage on Oct. 5, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Marine One takes off from the South Lawn of the White House with President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden on board for a trip to Fort Myers, Fla., to review Hurricane Ian damage on Oct. 5, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Marine One is scheduled to swoop over the wreckage of the Dali container ship and the fallen Francis Scott Key Bridge on Friday, giving President Joe Biden an aerial view of the scene before he meets privately with family members of construction workers killed in the crash.

Biden is slated to leave the White House just after noon aboard the executive helicopter en route to Baltimore, where the Dali lost power and struck the bridge on March 26. Six construction workers who were conducting maintenance on the bridge around 1:30 a.m. that morning were killed.

Marine One, the green helicopter operated by the Marine Corps, has been flying the nation’s chief executives over disaster sites for decades. Perhaps the most memorable was an aerial tour President George W. Bush took in 2005 over New Orleans amid criticism that his administration was doing too little to respond to Hurricane Katrina.

Joining Biden on the aerial tour Friday will be Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, a rising star in the Democratic Party who is dealing with his first disaster since taking office in January 2023. Also on board will be senior Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers leaders, according to a schedule of Biden’s visit released late Thursday by the White House.

The president is scheduled to receive an operational briefing on the ongoing cleanup effort, as Coast Guard and Corps of Engineers officials, along with other federal, state and local agencies, try to determine how to reopen the waterway. Doing so is critical because the Port of Baltimore remains closed, disrupting the Maryland and U.S. economies.

Moore has pleaded publicly with Congress to abide by Biden’s desire that the federal government foot the entire bill to rebuild the bridge, which CQ Roll Call has reported could be $2 billion or more. So far, Biden has sent the Old Line State $60 million, with his aides telling reporters they expect to send Congress an emergency supplemental funding request soon for the total amount.

“The president has also been clear since day one about his commitment — that the federal government should cover any needed costs for reconstructing the bridge,” Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young wrote to the top Republicans and Democrats on the House Transportation and Infrastructure and Senate Environment and Public Works committees in a letter released by the White House.

“While we continue to assess those costs alongside our Federal and State partners, we are asking the Congress to join us in demonstrating our commitment to aid in recovery efforts by authorizing a 100 percent Federal cost share for rebuilding the bridge,” Young wrote. “This authorization would be consistent with past catastrophic bridge collapses, including in 2007, when the Congress acted in a bipartisan manner within days of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minnesota.”

Some Republican lawmakers, during an ongoing two-week recess period, already have expressed skepticism about Washington paying for the entire cost of rebuilding, while others have called for the funding to be offset with cuts to other federal expenditures.

“As the Administration pursues its work to clean up wreckage, clear the channel, and rebuild the bridge, all avenues to recover the costs of past, current, and future work will continue to be pursued and the administration will ensure that any compensation for damages or insurance proceeds collected will reduce costs for the American people,” Young wrote.

Administration officials are “ready to work with the Congress” on the project, she wrote, calling the trade route along the Patapsco River “critical to the nation’s workers and economy.”

Biden also is slated to meet with first responders and family members of the construction workers. He is slated to deliver remarks on the recovery effort from a Maryland Transportation Authority facility in Baltimore.

“The president will meet with loved ones of those individuals during his trip tomorrow,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday. “The president is continuing to lead a whole of government approach in responding to the bridge collapse. As the president said within hours of the collapse, this administration will be with the people of Baltimore every step of the way.”

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