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. Up until then, the 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. Then Connecticut Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy took over the microphone. “Wait a second, until a few moments ago we were going down a pretty cooperative road,” Malloy said. “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 the Keystone XL pipeline, said earlier 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 increase. “What the heck was a reference to a white flag when it comes to people making $404 a week?” Malloy said. “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.”