President Obama Speaks to the National Governors Association

The president's speech calls for aid in his "year of action."
3:00 | 02/24/14

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Transcript for President Obama Speaks to the National Governors Association
This is a special room. I'm Michelle Franzen a new York and this is an ABC news digital special report. House guests for President Obama today as the national governor's association returns to 16100 Pennsylvania Avenue. For the second time in less than a day as part of their annual power allow in Washington. One governor who did not enjoy last night's toast and -- not be in attendance today new Jersey's Chris Christie. The chairman of the Republican Governors Association Christie skipped town early staff saying he wanted to attend his daughter's birthday party over the weekend and -- in time to prepare. For state budget address. With more on the president and all his visitors we're joined now by ABC news political director Rick Klein Rick thank you very much. President Obama had some fun with his guests last night suggested -- -- might already be measuring those White House drapes besides raising money in their national profiles is there any reason for all the end and GA to visit DC. Sure they come pretty regularly as they have so much business with the federal government when its qualifying. For state grants working with the Department of Health and Human Services for instance on on Medicaid issues and health -- in your state. There's a lot of areas where the federal in the state governments interact national governor's association. Is the biggest organization not all the dollars are part of it the most of them are they come. They've got a lobbying campaign they typically have some kind of a statement put out together and -- split off into the partisan groups and you have the democratic governors the Republican governors obviously a much different agenda. When it comes to addressing -- -- politics of course the president last night addressing all the governors that a black tie dinner and calling for a year backs action. And President Obama renewed this call which we first heard around the state of the union time and what kind of action. Is he pushing for and is he likely to find any partners in the Republican camp. His is interesting unlike congress where there is no there's no possible motivation really for Republicans to work with President Obama they feel like opposing it as their best. Path forward when you look at the governors even Republican governors can find individual issues where they can say hey. There's something good here for the federal government may be from the federal government may -- the most famous example Chris Christie on the eve of the 2012 election. Extending a hug to President Obama even as he was running against Mitt Romney who Christie is working so hard. To help elect there are areas that was around hurricanes -- there -- areas where state governments can work together. So bit of an intriguing political play by the president to make a direct appeal for these Republican governors is that law. I know our ideology isn't gonna lineup. But there must be something maybe it's job previous health care maybe it's the environment needs infrastructure something where I can help you and saying individually to these governors and collectively. I want to be a little work with everyone in this room on something this important to you your constituents in your state. With -- that everything hasn't been rosy at the White House Bobby Jindal -- -- Louisiana Republican. -- a kind of preemptive attack on the president yesterday what does he have to say. While his point is that the president keeps talking about the -- and the phone to try to get things done. He's saying look there are areas where you can be acting now to create jobs Keystone Pipeline now which would all open up but tens of thousands of jobs potentially. In the energy field and construction trades across the middle of this country say look -- go ahead and approve that now. A proven obamacare waiver that would free businesses from the burden of regulations and individual from the needs. -- to acquire health care entity individual mandates are using look there's a there's a partisan as a political -- to all of this but. If your only focus is on reviving the economy creating jobs there are things that you Mr. President can do yourself. And Rick thank you very much we want to listen in as the president addresses. The governor's. -- -- -- -- -- You've already been -- a lot of work and I'm glad to be able to come here and engaged in the dialogue with all of -- I want to thank. Marion and Jon for their leadership. At the NG eight. I want to thank my outstanding vice president Joseph Biden who is. Very excited I think about the jobs in Michigan and is going to be job training initiative I think is going to be doing -- great job on that. Michelle I had a wonderful time hosting -- -- last night and I hope all the spas in Jordan. And I know. -- Alex and Jordan. -- -- -- one good thing about living here is that you can make all the noise you want nobody's gonna complain. And I'm Jordan. Watching some of your we're theorize on higher off the size of the -- And each other. We don't we don't -- We got a -- time today. So be very brief. Go straight to Q&A -- and -- discussion. -- a moment when our economy is growing. Our businesses now created over eight point five million new jobs over the past four years. But as I've said several times the trends that have been have battered the middle class for a couple of decades now. Are still there and still have to be addressed. Those of the top are doing very well. Ordinary families. Still feeling squeezed. To many Americans are working harder than ever and just barely get -- and reversing those trends are gonna require us to. Worked together. Around. What I'm calling an opportunity agenda based on. Four -- number one more good jobs that pay good wages. Armored troop training more Americans to be able to take the jobs that are out there right now and the jobs that are created. Number three guaranteeing. Access to world class education for every American child all across or fifty states and our territories. And making sure that hard work pays off would wages that you can live on. Savings. That you can retire on health insurance that you can count. And all of this is going to take some action. So far just in the past few weeks back to lift. The wages. Workers. Who work for federal contractors to pay the -- make sure their employees are getting paid at least ten dollars and ten cents an out. We've ordered -- across the board reform of our job trading programs much of it. -- line with some of the work to -- is done during her tenure. Tenure as head of the -- -- we directed our treasury creating new way for Americans to start. Saving for retirement. We've been able to rally America's business leaders to help more the long term unemployed. Find work and to help us make sure that all of our kids have access to high speed Internet and high tech learning tools in the classroom. The point is assessed to be your -- And I'm eager to work with congress wherever. I can't my hope is that despite this being an election year that there will be occasions where both parties determined that it makes sense. Actually get some things done in this town but where -- -- work on my own. To expand up to -- for more Americans I'm gonna do that and I am absolutely convinced that the time is right to partner with the states and governors. All across the country on these agendas because I know that you guys are doing some terrific work in your own states. There may not be much of an appetite in congress for doing. Big jobs bills but we can still roll select USA. Sector -- -- Has put together -- terrific formula where we're attracting. Investors from all around the world to see America -- Outstanding place to invest and I mentioned this in the state -- For the first time last year what what we're saying is that. World investors now see America as the number one place to do business. Rather than China and it's it's a sign of a lot of things converging. Both. On the energy front. Worker productivity. Our innovation our research. Ease of doing business and a lot of that work is as a consequence of steps we've taken not just of the federal -- but also the state level so we got to take advantage of that. Sector Pritzker has been helping to -- company create jobs in Stillwater. Oklahoma help in an Austrian company create jobs Carter's bill -- -- so we -- we can do more of this and we've really -- to engage with the U over the next several months to find ways that we can help market. America and your State's to businesses all around the world and bring jobs back. Since I called on congress to raise the minimum wage last year six states would not have done on the wrong. Last month I -- more business leaders to raise their workers' wages last week gap said it would lift wages for about 65000 of its employees. Several -- were trying to boost wages for. Your workers I'm gonna do everything -- and the support those efforts. While congress decides what it's gonna do on. Making high quality. Pre K available more kids there is bipartisan work being done. Among the folks in this -- you've got to governors like Robert Bentley and Jack mark -- Susanna Martinez Deval Patrick. All expanding funding or dedicating funds to make. That happened in their states and we want to partner with you this year I'll pull together coalition of philanthropists elected officials business leaders. All of whom -- cited an interest in working with -- -- to help more kids access the high quality pre K. That they need. And while congress talks about repealing. The affordable character work. Don't -- -- doormat to it. Places like California and Kentucky are going gangbusters and -- more Americans in quality affordable health care plans. You've got Republican governors here I won't name in front president -- -- -- -- trouble who have chosen to cover more people through. New options under medicate. And as a result. Millions people are gonna get help. States. That don't expand Medicaid. Are gonna believe and up to 3.4. Five point four Americans million Americans -- in -- And that doesn't have to happen work with us to get this -- we can provide a lot of flexibility. Folks like Mike Beebe of Arkansas -- some terrific work designing programs that are right for their states but also provide access. To care for people who needed and I think Kathleen Sebelius the former governor -- -- has shown herself willing to work with all of -- To try to find ways to get that done. On the west Coast Guard governors brown in sleep. Hugh sauber -- were working together. Combat the effects of climate change on their states. We've set up task force of governors and mayors and tribal leaders to help communities prepare for. What we anticipate are going to be intensifying impacts of climate change from pursuing a climate hubs in seven states cross. The country help farmers and ranchers adapt their operations. Two a changing environment. In the budget but I'll send to congress next week I'm gonna propose fundamentally reforming the way federal government's fund. Wire while fire suppression and prevention and make it more stable secure and this -- is supported by both. Democrats and Republicans. And finally I want to thank those of you who worked with Michelle and Joseph Biden on -- are joining forces -- -- supporter of military families. -- -- meeting here two years ago they asked for help to make it easier for service members. And their -- to carry licenses. For professions like -- reversing from state to state. -- read a map to get a new one every time there were. Reassigned. At the time only twelve states -- back to make this easier for spouses only -- acted. To make it easier for service members today 42 states have passed legislation helps thousands 45. States. Have made it easier for service members. We've got a few states remaining let's get it done for everybody. Because it's the right thing to do for those men and women who wore. Working everyday to make sure we stay free and secure. At the point is. Even when there is little appetite in congress to move on some of these priorities. At the state level. You guys are governed by -- Practical considerations. You want to do right by your people and you see how. Good policy impacts your citizens and -- bad policy impacts are citizens and that means that there's less room for. Posturing and and politics and more room for -- stepped up we want to work with the and I'm committed to making sure that every single member of my cabinet every single person in the white -- every single -- my team. Will be responsive to you. We won't agree on every single issue every single time but I guarantee that we will work as hard as we can to make sure that you succeed. Because when you succeed. The people -- your state succeed in America succeeds and that's our goal to thank you very much and I look forward to have a great discussion. I want to bring in ABC's Rick Klein again to discuss some of those points Rick thanks again for joining us the president. Once again honed in on the middle class of course with what governors all around the country are still dealing with as well as everyone else he made -- Just four points along with jobs access to education wages and and health care. It sounds very familiar to the points that he made in the state of the union how does that apply for the governor's. The key line and -- to my mind was him saying look you as governors you're -- -- practical considerations you want what's best for -- -- people that's what the president said. And it implicit if not explicit distinction he's drawing -- with congress because in congress. You're not accountable in the same way using direct way to people -- in individual state is a lot more party discipline that's in force and as I said earlier there is no real incentive to cooperate with the president of another party there isn't built into the into the system right now. Governors are different governors -- it differently. And they can like the president u.'s executive actions. They have their own legislatures to deal with in their own individual politics that elect but there are areas where -- can the -- appeal to governors of the something it's. Compelling to this White House about the the freedom of flexibility that some governors have even some Republican governors have. In enacting their agenda some ways that they can interact with the president and maybe triangulate a little bit against Republicans in congress who. Really -- gonna go along with anything that President Obama wants. And he mentioned that they the governor's theoretically. Do less posturing and there's less politics involved. But in a year of elections it's an election year how realistic is it for them to have this breakout year -- this call to action. Well -- you're gonna see Republican governors rallying behind the president and a significant way that's either or individual areas where you could see a particular governor saying you know what with the Education Department in Washington is doing for the Housing and Urban Development Department what they're doing. This can work you see some Republican governors -- The national Republican Party decide to accept the Medicaid expansion under obamacare references that -- look just as good for our people to do it. So that's -- I think that's where the idea I don't think there's a sense of -- almost out of this White House that fifty governors are gonna rise up against the Republican majority in in congress and say. You know to start working with this president all the sudden -- you -- find some areas of cooperation around the -- if you look hard enough. And certainly there would be other discussions going on you know each governor each state dealing with their own health care. Issues as the you -- the sign up continues. And I want to ask you about something else another Republican governor though not a presidential favorite is facing a tough decision Arizona's Jan Brewer. She asked to decide by the end of this week if she's going to sign the so called religious freedom bill. -- state legislature now that would allow business owners to deny service to gay and lesbian customers. What are Republicans in DC saying. We're seeing more -- more Republicans come out and say that governor brewer should go ahead and veto this bill senator Jeff flake of Arizona came out over the weekend and this just in the last few minutes this week. From Senator John McCain also urging a veto so the senior Republican leadership in the state. Coalescing against this bill now there's this is a suggestion here in some agitating right now -- to try to. Create a boycott against Arizona when it comes to national sporting events particularly with Michael -- to be drafted as the first. Openly gay player in the NFL there's a Super Bowl that's due to be hosted soon. In Arizona so that's a potential piece of the economic development equation Arizona -- history with this. They had they did not celebrate the Martin with the king holiday and they lost the Super Bowl in the 1990s as a result of this but -- -- -- more pressure. Brought to bear on this for governor -- someone that's part of her own course and I don't think. I anyone that watched Iraq during the the immigration issue and -- new an anti immigrant laws that pass and Arizona over the last couple years think that she's going to be swayed by. Up to anyone including senators McCain and senator -- Is -- up against any sort of backlash in our own state. Sure of course yeah this is a big issue in Arizona and people know exactly what's behind it and now that it's arrived on her desk. There are big in there big issues of course raised by the the gay community and in Arizona and national groups have gotten involved as well also -- it's an easy. Political issue either way I think there's there's a core of social conservatives. Across the country and in Arizona that are pushing for this and do view it as an area of religious freedom. But there's a lot of the lot of pressure being applied in the other direction. So as you mentioned some of those practical issues that come into play for governors could come in to play in this issue as well. You know President Obama also making light in this this event saying that -- people were sizing up the drapes and each other in the room today. Are there any dark horses in the room today four of them with their eyes on the White House. Well they may not be that dark at least not -- Elise so far we're hearing so much about these governors. You know I went and count I counted at least nine Republican governor's current Republican governors that are being talked about as possible presidential contenders. The Democrats visited fewer -- but that's only assuming that Hillary Clinton runs if she doesn't run. Then you be talking of the governor of Maryland the governor of New York just for starters governor of Massachusetts -- just over the weekend said. He may think about running for for national office either 2016 or 20/20 that's the -- Patrick who often is drawn comparisons to President Obama so I think we'll see that there's only in this country we tend to look for presidents among senators. And governors as a 150 human beings in America that we think about his presidential. Timber of course that it -- other other ways the presidency but that's traditionally been the route. And these governors because they. Have the executive powers they don't have to deal with it was with co sponsoring legislation and voting for things and then having to. Position against them later they can sign things are not -- things it's a cleaner way of leadership and -- appealing to people that that get to that office of governor -- also think about themselves as president so. I think there isn't a very high likelihood that the next Republican presidential nominee is among the ranks of governors someone -- probably been in that room if not now over the weekend -- some people as you mentioned -- -- I think for the democratic side a bit less so. But that's unless Hillary clearly Clinton doesn't run if she doesn't run and I think a very good shot that that that one of the folks in that room right now you're looking at -- the next democratic nominee for president. That's exactly right I was going to ask you about on the democratic side but you -- that already and we'll have to just sort of wait and see how this all plays out of course with midterm elections. It's going to be a -- senior -- that Rick Klein thank you very much. Thank you and you've been listening to the president as he addressed says the gathering of the national governors association for some real time feedback from the audience stay right here on This has been an ABC news digital special report on Michelle Franzen in New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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