House Republicans Initiate Inquiry On Maui Fire Response

Rep. James Comer (R-KY), Chair of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, announced an inquiry into the federal government’s handling of Maui’s deadliest wildfires in over a century.

Comer said, “The response by federal, state, and local officials to the catastrophic wildfire in Maui raises serious questions, and Americans, especially those impacted by this tragedy, deserve answers.”

He added, “As recovery efforts continue, the House Oversight Committee has a responsibility to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used efficiently and effectively. To minimize the risk of waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars, the Oversight Committee will examine the federal government’s response in Maui and work with other committees of jurisdiction to ensure accountability.”

The investigation was initiated following House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) announcement of his trip to Hawaii this week to assess the damage and investigate the events leading up to the fires.

The fire response, overseen by Democratic local and state officials and the Biden administration, faces growing scrutiny from Maui residents and the public. Numerous unanswered questions remain about the failures and prevention of such widespread devastation.

Concerns from Maui residents include questioning if police barricades trapped individuals in their vehicles amid advancing fires, the reasons behind the water system failure, and the delayed deployment of military aid for earlier recovery assistance.

Biden faced criticism from residents and the public for responding “no comment” to a reporter’s inquiry about the Lahaina death toll six days after the fire, although the White House asserts he didn’t hear the question.

Rep. Ed Case (D-HI) expressed concerns about the legitimacy of the GOP-led probe, questioning its true motive for congressional oversight. He stressed that the situation should not be politicized.

On the other hand, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) welcomed the oversight effort.

Schatz said, “It’s to be expected that the Republican Speaker of the House would be critical of the Democratic president’s response to a disaster, so I’m not overly alarmed at that. I would be more alarmed if he were paying no attention to Maui. That would be a concern.”

Last week, McCarthy voiced deep worry about the administration’s response, saying, “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.”