President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden praised Utah Gov. Spencer Cox’s “Disagree Better” initiative during a meeting between the president and 42 governors as part of the annual meeting of the National Governors Association at the White House Friday.

Biden also took the opportunity to ask the governors to help get the border bill passed by the Senate to clear the House.

Cox, who is chairman of the National Governors Association this year, contrasted the policies passed at the state level with the standstill in Washington, D.C.

“As governors, we don’t have the luxury of partisan posturing. No matter what is going on in Washington, our states depend on us to get stuff done — to balance the budget, to keep the parks open and the schools funded and the potholes filled, to get the lights back on after natural disasters,” Cox said. “And governors work together on these priorities much more than people realize.”

Cox: ‘Toxic polarization’ stopping the country from getting things done

During the course of NGA meetings, Cox said the governors were looking at how to address issues like artificial intelligence, housing affordability, disaster response and workforce development. He said they “welcome the opportunity” to work with the Biden administration on these issues.

“Now, that is not to say that we always agree. I can assure you that we don’t. We have our arguments and disagreements,” said Cox. “... But we’re determined to set an example for the country on bipartisan cooperation.”

But, he said, “we cannot make progress on any of the challenges I mentioned unless we solve the overarching challenge, the challenge of toxic polarization that is tearing our country apart.”

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First lady Jill Biden said she was grateful to Cox and Abby Cox for welcoming her to Utah recently. She said governors “show that we can turn down the volume, stop the shouting, and actually listen to one another, that, yes, as Governor Cox says, we can disagree without being disagreeable.” 

During President Biden’s remarks, he said he likes working across the aisle.

“I appreciate Governor Cox’s effort to make the mission of the NGA to get those of us who disagree with one another to listen to one another, to treat one another with a sense of dignity and respect,” he said.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox speaks as Vice President Kamala Harris, left, looks on at the White House, on Feb. 23, 2024, in Washington.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox speaks to the National Governors Association as Vice President Kamala Harris, left, looks during an event in the East Room of the White House, on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, in Washington. | Evan Vucci, Associated Press

Biden brought up the infrastructure bill and other spending bills he passed early in his presidency, as well as his climate change initiatives, and said he wanted to work with states to encourage job growth and the growth of the manufacturing sector.

On the crisis at the border, which has caused friction between governors and the Biden administration, Biden continued to tout the border bill that has cleared the Senate but has not been taken up by the House. Biden said the bill didn’t pass because of “petty politics” intervening.

But House Republicans say the bill does not go far enough to address the crisis at the border and want Biden to come back to the negotiating table.

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At the White House Friday, Biden asked the governors to talk to the lawmakers from their states to encourage them to vote for the Senate border bill.

“Look, it’s the strongest border deal our country has ever seen. It also includes the most fair and humane reforms for legal immigration in a long time,” he said.