Joe and Jill Biden leave Tuesday for a warm winter vacation in the sunny US Virgin Islands, amid the aftermath of a massive winter storm that killed at least 70, and the Supreme Court could soon rule on the Title 42 border policy.
The optics of the trip are being questioned, especially by conservatives: Biden will be on the beach as parts of the US brace for another 12 inches of snow. Buffalo, which is buried under 50 inches of dust, has declared a federal emergency after the bomb cyclonic storm that has caused chaos across the country.
The Bidens will ring in the New Year on the Caribbean island of St. Croix, where it’s 84F and sunny, before returning to Washington DC on January 2.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is set to rule on Title 42 of the Trump-era border order, which is under temporary suspension. That ruling could come as soon as Tuesday. The court can decide whether to end the policy that allowed thousands of people to be turned away or can keep it in place.
Buffalo received 50 inches of snow and is under a federal emergency order
The Supreme Court has set Title 42 of the Trump-era border order to end at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday night, unless it issues another ruling. In the image: migrants waiting to be processed
The White House said it’s a business trip.
‘No matter where the president is, he is working. The President will continue to closely monitor updates and remain in close contact with staff throughout the New Year,” White House spokeswoman Emilie Simons said.
A flood of immigrants is expected to enter the US once the order is lifted and the two challenges facing the country have collided.
Temperatures dipped below freezing in the 48 contiguous US states over the weekend, including Texas communities along the southern border where some recently arrived immigrants have struggled to find refuge.
El Paso faces a humanitarian crisis, with many migrants sleeping on the streets of the city.
Presidents can and do work from anywhere, but hanging out in the sun while much of the country is covered in snow and immigrants are storming the border is questionable optics.
Temperatures across the country are expected to rise in the coming days, but there will be fallout from the storm.
In Buffalo, the dead were found in cars, houses and snowbanks.
Biden offered federal assistance to the city Monday, while New York Gov. Kathy Hochul toured her hometown of Buffalo, calling the blizzard “one for the ages.”
According to the governor, nearly all of the city’s fire trucks were stranded on Saturday. Many were left without electricity.
Even in an area known for snowfall, County Executive Mark Poloncarz called the blizzard “probably the worst storm in our lifetime.”
Biden was briefed on the storm before the holidays.
The storm caused some 2,872 US domestic and international flights to be canceled Tuesday as of 8 a.m. ET, according to tracking site FlightAware.
The Department of Transportation is investigating the flight cancellations, including those from Southwest, which canceled the most flights.
However, the Bidens will not face any travel difficulties, given that they will be on Air Force One.
The Bidens spent a quiet Christmas at the White House
President Joe Biden received a storm briefing on December 22.
The first couple spent a quiet Christmas at the White House, where they called a selection of US servicemen from around the world to thank them for their service.
The family had a private mass at the White House and a traditional Italian dinner.
The Bidens have a long family tradition of spending time on the sunny island in the Caribbean Sea, visiting there nearly every year since 2008.
Often, they greet the first sunrise of the new year at Point Udall, the easternmost point under the American flag.
Biden’s brother, James, owns property on Water Island and Biden often spends a week there in January, when cold weather settles on the East Coast.
The Bidens are returning to the island after skipping trips there in recent years due to the Covid pandemic.
During his time as vice president, Biden vacationed on St Croix in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
He will be the first president to visit the island since former President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Barack Obama visited in 2007 when he was a presidential candidate.
The last sitting president to visit St Croix was Harry Truman in February 1948.