It’s hard to say what Gov. Sonny Perdue has on his mind here, but he appears to have more than a mild headache as he listens to President Barack Obama this morning in a session with the National Governors Association.
From left to right, those in the bipartisan picture are South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican; Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat; Perdue, a Republican; and Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican.
Much of the debate over the weekend was over whether Republican-governed states would reject part or all of the $787 billion economic recovery package approved by Congress this month.
Perdue, of course, appeared to agree with Bobby Jindal of Louisiana on the issue of increased funds for the unemployed.
In his address to the governors, Obama addressed that concern specifically, citing it as an example of the “cable chatter” that is picking apart his initiative.
“I think there are some very legitimate concerns on the part of some about the sustainability of expanding unemployment insurance. What hasn’t been noted is that, that is $7 billion of a $787 billion program.
“And it’s not even the majority of the expansion of unemployment insurance. So it is possible for those who are concerned about sustaining a change that increases eligibility for part-time workers to still see the benefit of $30 billion plus that is going — even if you don’t make the change….
“I just want to make sure we’re having an honest debate…”
Here’s a raw 11-minute clip from MSNBC:
After the White House meeting, in an interview with my AJC colleague Bob Keefe, Perdue praised the new president for his candor.
“It was a very candid, forthright discussion,” Perdue said. ” I thought he was very amenable in understanding the differences in our states and (our) different challenges and I was very encouraged that we’ve got an administration that states like Georgia are going to be able to work.”
When George W. Bush hosted governors during their annual winter meetings in Washington, the get-together was very structured. Bush typically only took one or two questions from the state leaders. In contrast, Monday’s meeting with members of the National Governors Association was much more open, Perdue and others said.
“It was more open-mike,” Perdue said. “We had a very forthright discussion in a variety of areas and the president was very gracious in taking many of our questions and acknowledging very upfront that there are some differences.”
Monday’s meeting came after the White House hosted what by some reports was a relatively raucous reception for the governors and their spouses on Sunday night. Legendary R&B band Earth, Wind and Fire performed at the reception, where a conga line apparently broke out.
Asked Monday whether he participated in the dance train, Perdue laughed and shook his head. “I’m an early to bed guy,” he said.
Photo credit: Charles Dharapak/Associated Press