WASHINGTON (AP) — Stymied by a divided Congress, President Barack Obama appealed for help from the nation’s governors Monday as he seeks to advance economic policies that stand little chance of winning passage on Capitol Hill.
“Even when there’s little appetite in Congress to move on some of these priories, on the state level you guys are governed by practical considerations,” Obama told the governors during a meeting at the White House. “You want to do right by your people.”
The president pressed in particular for states to act on their own to raise the minimum wage and expand access to early childhood education, two initiatives that have gained little traction in Congress since Obama first introduced them last year.
While the governors assembled in the State Dining Room Monday politely applauded the president, it’s unclear whether Republican governors are willing to collaborate with the Democratic president ahead of the November midterm elections.
Republicans were planning to share their ideas for improving the nation’s economy, including eliminating federal regulations and further delaying key provisions of Obama’s health care overhaul.
Several governors are seen as potential presidential candidates in 2016. Obama made light of the speculation about the race to replace him, saying he “enjoyed watching some of you with your eyes on higher office size up the drapes, and each other.”
In a Sunday interview, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said he would encourage the president to use his executive authority to jumpstart the economy.
Jindal said while it was “blatantly unconstitutional” for the president to ignore federal laws, Obama’s position allows him to work around Congress in constructive ways.
“Instead of new regulations, new spending that haven’t worked, I would argue he should use his newfound executive power to actually promote jobs,” Jindal said, adding that Congress should be doing more as well. “It’d be hard to argue they could be doing less.”
The White House has planned a series of events this week designed to highlight the president’s desire for action.
In a Sunday message entitled, “We’re not sitting still,” Obama’s senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said the president this week would “announce new action on manufacturing, infrastructure and transportation jobs, and a new initiative to ensure everyone who is willing to work hard has a shot at success.”
Not every governor met Monday with the president.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie left the NGA meeting early to attend his daughter’s birthday and prepare for a budget address.
Facing multiple investigations in a political-retribution probe in New Jersey, the Republican leader will also skip a Monday news conference by the Republican Governors Association, which he leads.