Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, center, speaks to reporters outside the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, following a meeting between President Barack Obama and members of the National Governors Association (NGA). From left are, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, NGA Chair, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, Jindal, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
WASHINGTON (AP) - The nation's governors emerged from a meeting with
President Barack Obama on Monday claiming harmony, only to immediately
break into an on-camera partisan feud in front of the West Wing.
Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal lashed out first, saying if
Obama were serious about growing the economy he would approve the
Keystone XL pipeline project and take other executive actions.
Instead, Jindal said, Obama "seems to be waving the white flag of
surrender" on the economy by focusing on raising the federal minimum
wage to $10.10, up from $7.25. "The Obama economy is now the minimum
wage economy. I think we can do better than that," Jindal said.
Jindal's statements were the kind that Republicans often make on
television appearances or at partisan events, but don't usually come
from potential presidential candidates standing yards from the Oval
Office. Other governors had been instead expressing wide agreement and
appreciation for the president's time. As Jindal spoke, some of his
colleagues began shaking their heads, and Hawaii Democratic Gov. Neil
Abercrombie began audibly mumbling to others around him.
Connecticut Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy took over the microphone
from Jindal and responded sharply, "Wait a second, until a few moments
ago we were going down a pretty cooperative road. So let me just say
that we don't all agree that moving Canadian oil through the United
States is necessarily the best thing for the United States economy."
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican who chairs the National
Governors Association and supports Keystone, earlier said she asked
Obama when the administration would decide whether to allow it and he
told her there would be an answer in the next couple months.
Malloy said Jindal's "white flag statement" was the most partisan of
their weekend conference and that many governors support a minimum wage
"What the heck was a reference to white flag when it comes to people
making $404 a week?" Malloy snapped. "I mean, that's the most insane
statement I've ever heard."
Jindal did not the back down.
"If that's the most partisan thing he's heard all weekend, I want to
make sure he hears a more partisan statement," the Louisiana governor
responded. "I think we can grow the economy more if we would delay more
of these Obamacare mandates."
As the news conference broke up, Colorado Democratic Gov. John
Hickenlooper, vice chair of the governors association, called Jindal a
"cheap shot artist" as he walked off the White House grounds.
The public dispute came after Obama appealed to the governors for
their help to advance his 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 remarks in the State
Dining Room. "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.
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."
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 also skipped a Monday news conference
by the Republican Governors Association, which he leads.
Jindal shrugged off Christie's absence from the news conference,
declaring that the RGA is "more important than just any one governor."
Asked about his own presidential ambitions, Jindal responded, "My
honest answer is I don't know what I'm going to be doing in 2016."
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