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Democratic governors discuss bypassing Congress with Obama

By Alicia M. Cohn - 02/24/12 03:02 PM ET

President Obama met with a group of Democratic governors on Friday and discussed plans to work around Congress toward policy goals.

Gov. Jack Markell, the Democratic governor of Delaware and the vice chairman of the National Governors Association, told The Hill that the meeting was “very good” and said many of the governors were responsive to ideas about bypassing Congress.

“There was a sense that none of us should wait, we can’t wait for things to happen in Congress,” Markell said of the meeting. “We’re going to do what we can do [now].”

 


Obama has positioned himself against Congress as he runs for reelection, arguing lawmakers are failing to solve the country’s problems. “Where Congress won’t act, I will,” he said in October when rolling out a series of executive orders aimed at creating jobs.

Markell said the conversation with Obama did not dwell on Republican opposition to the president’s legislative proposals.

The tone of the meeting was positive, Markell said, and the governors agreed that the Obama administration has been “terrifically responsive” to their state governments. 

The Democratic governors discussed the three major job goals from Obama’s State of the Union address: building manufacturing, training workers and increasing American-made energy.

“We had a great conversation very focused, not surprisingly, on jobs,” Markell said, calling jobs the “biggest issue for all of us in the room, no matter where we come from.”

He noted that although they did not discuss the election, the sense in the room was that focusing on jobs is Democrats’ best chance to win in the fall. That is the message the Democratic Party has been sending in full force this season, ranging from Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) to Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who slammed the GOP presidential candidates Friday on CNN for failing to mention jobs in the most recent debate and instead talking about “divisive cultural issues.”

Markell said the discussion with Obama steered clear of the transportation bills that are being fought over in Congress, though “it’s certainly something we as governors feel strongly about.”

The meeting, which lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes, took place in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and involved more than a dozen Democratic governors and several members of the Obama administration.

Governors present included Govs. Jerry Brown (Calif.), Jay Nixon (Mo.), O’Malley, Christine Gregoire (Wash.), Bev Perdue (N.C.), Peter Shumlin (Vt.), Neil Abercrombie (Hawaii), Deval Patrick (Mass.) and Pat Quinn (Ill.).

The governors are in town for the annual winter meeting of the National Governors Association. Markell, who attended the meeting for the first time as vice chairman of the NGA, also talked up the level of bipartisan cooperation between the governors, which he said contrasted with what has “not been a great level of cooperation between members of Congress.”

“We don’t really care where an idea comes from if it’s a good idea,” he said.

Governors from both parties will meet with the president on Monday.

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