McCarthy floats House investigation of federal Maui response

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters Wednesday the House likely will investigate the federal response to the deadly wildfires in Maui that have killed more than 100 people.

“I’m very concerned about the response,” McCarthy said during a tour of a 5G manufacturing facility in Syracuse, N.Y. “How could you lose that many Americans in today’s age? I’m going to be working with committees to investigate what went on so this never happens again.”

“The president’s response, no comment, that’s unacceptable,” McCarthy added, referencing the president telling reporters he had “no comment” on the Maui fires and their death toll from Rehoboth Beach, Del., on Aug. 13. The president had told reporters earlier in the day that the administration was “looking at” a visit to Maui, which Biden made earlier this week.

Biden has approved a federal disaster declaration for the island and deployed several hundred Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel, and he said in Milwaukee last Tuesday that federal personnel “will be there in Maui as long as it takes.”

In addition to at least 115 confirmed deaths so far, another 850 people are missing in connection with the fires as of Wednesday afternoon. The initial cause of the fires has not yet been definitively established, but a lawsuit alleges that downed power lines operated by Hawaii’s electric utility started an electrical fire, exacerbated by vegetation that had been dried out amid a severe drought. So-called flash droughts, which enabled the blaze to spread beyond control, are an increasing threat as a result of human-caused climate change.

McCarthy previously suggested the House may launch an impeachment inquiry against Biden after Congress returns from its August recess.

Separate from McCarthy’s remarks, bipartisan lawmakers have long pressed for a federal team to investigate the root causes of natural disasters. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) told Politico this week that the Maui fires are “maybe … the trigger we need” to make the case for the idea. The House passed a measure backing the idea in the last Congress.

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.

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