Biden praises ‘bipartisan progress’ as he dines with governors

By Andrea Schalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday appealed to Republican and Democratic governors to continue working across political divides to improve Americans’ lives and get the economy back on track after the hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic build up.

At a black-tie dinner at the White House attended by Vice President Kamala Harris and 31 governors, Biden said passing infrastructure investment and domestic semiconductor manufacturing legislation was evidence of “bipartisan progress” among Republicans and democrats.

“I hope we get a little — I’ll try — a little less partisan and work on things that we can really do to make a difference in people’s lives,” Biden said this week after the governors’ meeting in Washington.

Biden said he was still “ready to fight as you all are,” and while Republicans and Democrats didn’t always agree, when they worked together it made a difference.

Republican Gov. Spencer Cox of Utah, vice chairman of the National Governors Association, said it was “very symbolic” for Republicans and Democrats to “break bread together” in the White House.

Cox added that he believes the majority of Americans want to see more cooperation at the political level.

“That’s what’s missing in our country,” he said, adding, “It’s hard to hate up close.”

Notably absent from the dinner was Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who has challenged Biden’s agenda on a variety of fronts, from gun safety to LGBTQ rights.

Country singer Brad Paisley played guitar and performed his song “American Saturday Night” after dinner.

Instead, he sang: “She has Brazilian leather boots on the pedal of a German car. A Ukrainian flag hangs behind the bar.”

Biden’s comments echoed his State of the Union address before Congress on Tuesday, in which he called on Republicans to help unite the country.

Bipartisan legislation passed last year has fundamentally transformed the U.S. economy, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat who heads the association, told reporters Friday after a series of governor meetings at the White House.

Murphy said states’ ability to work together on other issues, such as mental health, refutes the “narrative that politics is utterly divided,” and called the coalition a “beacon of bipartisan reality.”

He said the group has appealed to lawmakers and the White House to end a dispute over raising the $31.4 trillion statutory debt ceiling before the Treasury Department runs out of funds to pay off the US debt.

Republicans want spending concessions from Biden, who has said he will not negotiate a limit hike.

Murphy said he left the meetings “more optimistic” about the willingness of both sides to negotiate while maintaining spending on Social Security, medical supplies and defense.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal, editing by Clarence Fernandez and David Goodman)


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