Biden receives GOP, Dem governors at White House for dinner

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden, who was hosting both Republican and Democratic governors for a black tie ceremony at the White House, raised his glass in a toast.

Standing under a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, he challenged the people in the room to remember who they were. “We are the United States of America. We can achieve great things if we do it together.”

“Cheers!” the crowd replied, while the clinking of glasses splashed over the state dining room.

Biden hosted the White House dinner for members of the National Governors Association for the first time in his tenure. It’s usually a tradition, but the dinner took place at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s Virginia estate, last year and practically in 2021 because of COVID-19.

Dinner came when Federal leaders seemed divided as always with the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives vying for a risky showdown on the debt ceiling.

On Saturday at the White House, however, the message was one of togetherness — and not just because the room was packed with governors, spouses and cabinet members. Biden and the leaders of both associations, Republican Gov. Spencer Cox of Utah and Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, spoke about the need to increasingly bitter political differences to collectively improve the nation.

“I think if we work together, it works,” Biden said, adding he would work on being a little more bipartisan and praising the governors’ work.

The tables were set with purple velvet tablecloths (wink wink to impartiality), china bearing the President’s seal, and large floral centerpieces in white and pink.

Cabinet members were mixed in ball gowns, tuxedos and sparkles along with governors. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sat next to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. Maryland Gov. Wes Moore and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, both Democrats, sat next to Vice President Kamala Harris. Not far away were Republican governors. Bill Lee from Tennessee and Doug Burgum from North Dakota.

First Lady Jill Biden held a spousal service project earlier Saturday, but she had to skip a Friday event because she wasn’t feeling well. She tested negative for COVID-19.

Biden, who doesn’t drink, offered the toast with his left hand, saying he was told by his grandfather that if you didn’t have alcohol in your glass, that’s what you do. Cox, who also doesn’t drink, did the same when he toasted and told the room it was ginger ale.

“It’s symbolic that Republicans and Democrats are breaking bread together,” Cox said. “That’s what’s missing.”

“And I believe that the people of our country, at least the weary majority, want us to do more of that.”

Cox thanked Biden and the first lady before introducing Murphy, who joked that his glass was definitely in his right hand. He said their party affiliation was less important than the common nickname “Americans.”

After dinner, guests entered the East Room, where country singer Brad Paisley performed the song “American Saturday Night” and other tunes.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Biden receives GOP, Dem governors at White House for dinner

Sarah Y. Kim

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