WASHINGTON – A genteel weekend of governors’ meetings suddenly became a partisan showdown at the White House on Monday, as Republicans and Democrats accused each other of being insensitive and, in one case, criticizing a colleague’s remarks as insane.
The governors had just finished an hourlong meeting with President Obama and administration officials. That meeting was described as cordial. Obama did give the governors a veiled warning that he was prepared to act through executive order on issues not tackled by Congress.
“My hope is, is that despite this being an election year, that there will be occasions where both parties determine that it makes sense to actually get some things done in this town,” the president said. “But wherever I can work on my own to expand opportunity for more Americans, I’m going to do that.”
After the meeting, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, wasn’t pleased as he spoke in a driveway outside.
He said Obama “seems to be waving a white flag of surrender” and charged, “The Obama economy is now the minimum-wage economy.” The president had continued to push his effort to increase the minimum wage, now $7.25 an hour, to $10.10. Most Republicans weren’t buying it.
Democrats quickly fired back. “I don’t know what the heck he was referring to, a white flag?” said Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat. He added that Jindal’s comment was “the most insane statement I’ve ever heard.”
The tone at the meeting itself was respectful. Obama, who annually hosts this meeting on the final day of the four-day National Governors Association (NGA) meeting, recalled Sunday night’s dinner with the executives.
“I enjoyed watching some of you with your eyes on higher office size up the drapes — and each other,” he said to a room full of potential 2016 successors.
Throughout their annual gathering, the governors have tried to unify around a host of issues that affect their states, such as more flexibility for implementing Medicaid or keeping a strong National Guard.