House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) visited the town of Lahaina on Saturday to tour what he described as the “sheer devastation” inflicted by the deadly wildfires last month.
During the visit, McCarthy focused on how to help residents rebuild after a fire practically destroyed the entire city of Lahaina on the island of Maui, which experienced a series of blazes. He also vowed to get to the bottom of what many say is a lackluster response by all levels of government, vowing to use the resources of Congress to investigate.
“We want to get the resources to individuals that could rebuild their life, we’ve got to focus on the children for the schools, get them back into the education so they don’t miss out,” McCarthy said. “We will investigate to find out why did it happen, what went right, what went wrong, so other communities won’t ever have to see this,” he later added.
The California Republican said the House would look into various factors that may have led to the rapid spreading of the fire and the inability to contain it, including overhead power lines, invasive grasses, resources for the fire department, and the adequacy of the county building codes, according to the Honolulu Civil Beat.
McCarthy was touring Lahaina with a bipartisan group of legislators, including Hawaii Democratic Rep. Jill Tokuda, Florida Democratic Rep. Jared Moskowitz, Ohio Republican Rep. David Joyce, and Idaho Republican Rep. Russ Fulcher. The investigation, according to the Speaker, should also be a bipartisan effort.
“I’m in Hawaii right now with a bipartisan group of lawmakers because tragedies unite us as Americans. This isn’t a place for partisan politics,” McCarthy posted to X along with photos of his visit. “It is a place to say thank you to the first responders and to act quickly for the survivors as they rebuild after the deadly fire.”
I'm in Hawaii right now with a bipartisan group of lawmakers because tragedies unite us as Americans.
This isn’t a place for partisan politics. It is a place to say thank you to the first responders and to act quickly for the survivors as they rebuild after the deadly fire. pic.twitter.com/9CoYstMXSH
— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) September 3, 2023
The death toll from the fires is at least 115, while there are 385 people still missing, according to numbers released by the FBI. But Hawaii Democratic Governor Josh Green says, “Exact numbers are going to take time, perhaps a long time, to become finalized.”
Two weeks ago, McCarthy called for a congressional investigation into the fires, calling the federal government’s response “very delayed.”
“We still have hundreds of individuals that are missing. I think there’s gonna have to be a congressional investigation in response of what happened. How could we lose that many Americans in today’s age?” McCarthy said at a Syracuse, New York, press conference. “The president’s response to have no comment? That’s unacceptable,” he added later.
A week after McCarthy floated the idea, House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-KY) announced a probe into the federal government’s response to the tragedy, telling the Daily Caller News Foundation, “Americans, especially those impacted by this tragedy, deserve answers.”
In addition to the Oversight Committee’s investigation, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) announced an inquiry into Hawaiian Electric. Rodgers sent a letter to the electric company, the State Energy Office, and the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission “seeking information regarding the role of electric infrastructure in the August fires that broke out.”