President Obama invited a bipartisan group of the nation’s governors to work with him on issues like job creation, and praised the executives who have already moved on Democratic priorities like raising the minimum wage and expanding Medicaid.
The governors are in town for the annual meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA), where they have several meetings with the president scheduled. In addition to a meeting between the Democratic members and the president last week, governors from both parties gathered for dinner with the president at the White House Sunday ahead of Monday’s meeting.
And he quipped that the meeting was a good opportunity for those with bigger ambitions.
“I enjoyed watching some of you with your eyes on higher office size up the drapes -- and each other,” Mr. Obama joked as he opened his remarks Monday.
He spoke about opportunities where the governors can act, even if Congress does not – a common refrain since the State of the Union address. On job creation, raising the minimum wage and expanding the availability of high-quality pre-K, the president urged the governors to take action.
He praised those who already have, such as the six states that raised their minimum wage since he first proposed the idea in his 2013 State of the Union address , the four governors who have worked to expand pre-K, and the west coast Democrats who have worked to combat climate change.
“Even when there is little appetite for Congress to move on some of these priorities at the state level you guys are governed by practical considerations. You want to do right by your people and you see how good policy impacts your citizens and you see how bad policy affects your citizens and that means there’s less posturing for politics,” Mr. Obama said.
When the governors emerged after their closed-door session with the president, they kept up a bipartisan front for several minutes as they answered questions from the press. Gov. Mary Fallin, R-Okla., the current NGA chair, said the governors discussed transportation funding, infrastructure, the National Guard, and the Keystone pipeline with the president. He promised a final answer on the pipeline “in a couple of months,” she said, adding that she is a supporter.
But the collaborative mood disappeared fast when Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., stepped to the mic and urged the president to take action on a series of Republican priorities, such as approving the Keystone pipeline, removing regulations and introducing school choice.
“What I worry about is this president and the White House seems to be waving the white flag of surrender…the Obama economy is now the minimum wage economy. I think we can do better than that,” he said.
That didn’t sit well with Gov. Dannel Malloy, D-Conn., who shot back, “We don’t all agree that moving Canadian oil through the United States is the best thing for the U.S. economy.”
He also called Jindal’s assertions, “the most insane statement I’ve ever heard,” but also said that the meeting with the president was “great” and didn’t get too bogged down in partisan differences.
Not to be outdone, Jindal returned to the mic to call on the president to delay Obamacare’s mandates.