Democratic Ohio senator Sherrod Brown said during a town hall that whether or not President Joe Biden comes to the devastated town of East Palestine, Ohio, is not "a particularly big deal."
"I don't think whether the president shows up, and they have to close schools, and everything's disrupted, is the issue," Brown said. "I'm fine if I know that [Transportation Secretary Pete] Buttigieg was here, I know the EPA administrator was here. I don't know that the president himself coming particularly matters."
A Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine on Feb. 3, contaminating the area with toxic chemicals and leading officials to burn the chemicals to preempt an explosion. The Biden administration has received widespread criticism for its slow response to the crisis. Buttigieg took nearly three weeks to show up in East Palestine, while Biden chose to visit Kyiv, Ukraine, rather than the Ohio town.
The president "doesn't care about" East Palestine residents, Mayor Trent Conaway said last week, calling Biden's Kyiv visit "the biggest slap in the face."
Biden has no plans to visit East Palestine, the White House has said.
Brown, who was elected to the Senate in 2007 and has been ranked one of the most liberal members of Congress, will likely face a tough reelection fight next year. He is the only Democratic statewide elected official from Ohio. The state has in recent years increasingly leaned Republican, twice voting for former president Donald Trump.