House Republicans Launch Probe of Hawaii Wildfires Response

August 30, 2023

House Oversight Committee chairman James Comer (R., Ky.) said Tuesday that he is launching a probe into the Biden administration's response to the deadly Maui wildfires.

The Oversight Committee will examine the federal response in Maui and work to minimize "the risk of waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars," Comer told Forbes. The Kentucky congressman went on to say that the actions of "federal, state, and local officials" raise questions.

President Joe Biden went days without talking about the fires, even as flames swept across Maui, killing at least 115 people and leaving hundreds missing. When a reporter on Aug. 13 tried asking the president about the deaths, Biden said, "No comment." The White House later said Biden did not hear the question.

The president took nearly two weeks to visit the island. When he finally did arrive, he joked about the island's "hot ground," compared the tragedy to a small fire in his kitchen, and appeared to nod off while others were talking.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, meanwhile, boasted that his department's response to the wildfires was "culturally sensitive." FEMA, the Homeland Security agency tasked with responding to natural disasters, gave diversity trainings as the fires raged, the Washington Free Beacon reported. The agency is also facing scrutiny for failing to explain why so many people are missing and why its officials stayed at luxury hotels amid recovery efforts.

While Comer's committee is investigating the federal response, Hawaiian state and county officials are also receiving criticism. Hawaii Commission on Water Resource Management deputy director Kaleo Manuel reportedly delayed releasing water to firefighters after saying last year that access to water is contingent on "conversations about equity," the Free Beacon reported.