President Joe Biden used his meeting on Friday at the White House with a bipartisan group of governors to reiterate his call to “get the job done” with the help of states and called out congressional Republicans’ bluff over their threats to send United States into default.
Biden’s remarks at the meeting with the governors revisited many of the same themes he brought up earlier this week during the State of the Union address, showcasing the real world impact of the laws passed over the last two years. Speaking to the House chamber on Tuesday, the president gave an optimistic perception of the nation despite vocal opposition from some Republicans in the room. His speech – which focused heavily on core domestic issues and took sharp aim at GOP proposals – has been widely viewed as a test run for his potential reelection announcement.
Since Tuesday’s address, Biden has taken his policies on the road – most recently traveling to Tampa, Florida, to contrast his approach to social safety net policies with GOP efforts to cut Medicare and Social Security.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris hosted the governors, in town for the National Governors Association’s winter meeting, on Friday in the East Room. On Saturday, Biden, Harris and their spouses will also attend a black tie dinner at the White House with the governors.
Biden told governors at Friday’s meeting that he doesn’t believe congressional Republicans are “serious” about playing hardball with the debt ceiling in remarks to the nation’s governors at the White House.
“I believe we can be fiscally responsible without threatening our country,” Biden said. “I don’t think my colleagues are really serious – I hope they’re not – about holding the debt hostage to cuts they want to make in certain things that I may or may not want to make.”
The US hit the debt ceiling in January, forcing the federal government to take extraordinary measures to keep the government paying its bill. The federal government faces the possibility of a catastrophic default later this summer if Congress cannot come to an agreement to raise the debt ceiling.
Ahead of in-person meetings with the governors, the White House highlighted a recent statement from the NGA that called on Congress “to increase or suspend the debt limit as soon as possible.” Hardline Republicans have argued that lifting the borrowing cap be tied to spending reductions, and the NGA’s statement is in line with Biden’s repeated call on Congress to come to consensus on the matter.
“Failure on the part of the Treasury Department to meet its federal obligations would create significant uncertainty and risk to American citizens, government services, and global financial markets,” the statement from the NGA, which represents all 55 of the nation’s governors, continued.
During Friday’s meeting, the president highlighted massive amounts of federal funding delivered to states to follow through with some of the major policies enacted since he took office. Biden told the governors he thinks “one of the things we have a chance to do this year is disprove that … we’re just a broken system, that we’re divided, we’re just based on extremes in both parties and we can’t get anything done.”
Harris similarly emphasized that she thinks “the theme of this year should be, for all of us, momentum.”
“There is so much good and important work that happened over the last two years, as a very specific moment in time in our country – and era, if you will. Not just a political season,” she continued. “And we are now at a point, we’re coming through the height of the crisis. But with the good work that’s been done to deal with an immediate issue that required long term thinking, we are now on the verge of building on that in a way that, together through a partnership, will benefit the people of our country for generations.”
New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said during the meeting that there’s a “certain pride” within the NGA that “we can consistently come together and disprove the narrative that politics has gotten completely divisive.”
Utah Republican Gov. Spencer Cox told reporters after the White House meeting that the group “talked extensively about securing the border and … the fentanyl piece as well as the immigration piece.” He said they spoke about what they could do “to fix legal immigration.”
They also discussed states’ implementation of bipartisan legislation, including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act.
A White House official told CNN ahead of Friday’s meeting that “all 55 governors from every state and territory were invited to the National Governor Association’s Winter Meeting, to the business meeting at the White House, and to the dinner for governors at the White House on Saturday.”
However, there were some notable Republican governors who were absent, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Last year, a bipartisan group of governors in town for the winter meeting used their time in Washington to bend Biden’s ear on easing Covid-19 restrictions.
And this year, amid poll numbers suggesting Americans want a new Democrat to be the 2024 presidential nominee, nearly a dozen Democratic governors are using their platform in Washington to express their support for a second Biden term.
Murphy told reporters on Thursday that Biden’s State of the Union address and Republicans’ reactions – from repeated heckling in the chamber to Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ response – showed a clear contrast between the parties.
“Between the crazy behavior from that right-wing group of folks who heckled him, (and) his statesman-like, substantive … remarks, and then the reply, which was all about culture wars? This guy is running and he’s got to get reelected and we’re all behind him,” Murphy, who leads the Democratic Governors Association, said alongside 10 other Democratic governors.
Their vocal support for Biden follows a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll that found 6 in 10 Democratic and Democratic leaning independents say they’d like the party to nominate someone other than Biden.
Biden recently reiterated in a PBS NewsHour interview this week that he intends to run for reelection, but hasn’t made that decision yet.
First lady Jill Biden was also scheduled to host governors’ spouses on Friday for a luncheon at the White House. However, the first lady’s office announced Friday morning that she would no longer attend because she was feeling ill.
The first lady’s spokesperson, Vanessa Valdivia, told CNN, “The First Lady is feeling under the weather, has tested negative for COVID, and will not be participating in today’s scheduled events.”
Jill Biden is also slated to host a service project with the governors’ spouses Saturday afternoon as part of her Joining Forces initiative.
This story has been updated with additional developments on Friday.
CNN’s Betsy Klein and Sam Fossum contributed to this report.