President Barack Obama on Monday cautioned the nation’s governors that a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security could result in tens of thousands of furloughed employees.
“They all work in your states. These are folks who, if they don’t have that paycheck, are not going to be able to be able to spend that money in your states,” Obama said, addressing a gathering of the National Governors Association at the White House.
“It will have a direct impact on your economy and it will have a direct impact on America’s national security, because their hard work helps to keep us safe,” he continued. “And as governors, you know can’t afford to play politics with our national security.”
Congress is nearing a Friday deadline to continue funding the agency, but disagreements over the president’s executive action on immigration have stalled negotiations.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told the governors Sunday that if no deal is reached in time, he could have to suspend grants that help local police and firefighters pay for training and equipment.
Talking to reporters outside the White House Monday, Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colorado, said the group of governors “didn’t pick one slant or another” during the closed portion of their meeting with the President earlier in the day.
“The President made a robust defense of his executive effort around immigration,” he added. “He was not backing away in any sense from what he sees as a failed system.”
Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-Louisiana, said the President was asked by a governor to urge Democrats to stop filibustering, but Obama declined.
“The President did not agree to tell the Democrats to allow there to be a vote. He said he would veto the bill if it got to him with the language as its currently written,” Jindal said.
Republicans made sharp gains in the 2014 midterms just a few months ago, bringing the totally number of GOP governors to 31, with 18 Democrats and one independent.
Among those who attended the meeting with Obama were Republicans who are actively trying to get his job in 2016, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who’s taken heat for not taking a firm stance on controversial comments by Rudy Giuliani that the President doesn’t love America. Walker also told The Washington Post this weekend that he “doesn’t know” whether Obama is a Christian.
The potential presidential candidate blamed the media for asking what he called “gotcha” questions, while a spokeswoman followed up with the Post, saying, “Of course the governor thinks the president is a Christian.”
Walker later tweeted a selfie with his son at the White House for the dinner.
Jindal, talking to reporters, called on the President to start labeling ISIS extremism as an Islamic threat and for the White House to write a new Authorization for Use of Military Force against ISIS that would allow for the option of putting boots on the ground.
“I think that the President has really disqualified himself to be our commander-in-chief because he will not not only identify this threat but take the steps that are necessary to defeat this threat,” he said, echoing refrains from his opinion piece earlier Monday for Fox News.
One consistent critic who won’t be in the room on Monday is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The likely 2016 Republican presidential hopeful traveled home to Trenton over the weekend.
CNN’s Eric Bradner contributed to this report.