Trump toasts nation’s governors ahead of health care talks

Trump toasts nation's governors ahead of health care talks

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has toasted the nation’s governors, welcoming state leaders to a black-tie ball at the White House ahead of discussions about his plans to repeal and replace the so-called Obamacare law.

Trump welcomed 46 governors and their spouses to the annual Governors’ Ball Sunday evening at the White House, the first major social event of his administration. The president congratulated first lady Melania Trump on the elegant candle-lit event in the State Dining Room, telling the audience, “The room, they say, has never looked better, but who knows.”

During his toast, the president noted his Monday meeting with the governors at the White House, saying, “Perhaps health care will come up,” a nod to the effort in Congress to repeal and replace the sweeping health care law installed under President Barack Obama.

Trump saluted the nation’s governors, joking that “it’s such an easy job you have.” Despite some of the turmoil at the start of his administration and legal challenges to his executive order temporarily banning travellers from seven predominantly Muslim countries, Trump told the governors he had already made strides.

“I can say that after four weeks — it’s been a lot of fun — but we’ve accomplished almost everything we’ve started out to accomplish. The borders are stricter, tighter,” Trump said, praising the work of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. He added: “We’re very happy with the way things are working but, again, we’ve made a lot of promises over the last two years and many of those promises already are kept so we’re very honoured by that.”

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat and longtime ally of Trump’s campaign rival, Hillary Clinton, led the governors in a toast of Trump. McAuliffe, the chairman of the National Governors Association, said they all shared the common goals of jobs, education, quality health care and infrastructure across the nation.

“We want to work with you to build on those ideals,” McAuliffe said.

The governors, their guests and members of Trump’s Cabinet sat at long tables topped with white floral centerpieces and candles in the State Dining Room, where Trump addressed the guests from a lectern near a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. The president wore a black tuxedo while the first lady was dressed in a long black evening gown.

At the tables, Vice-President Mike Pence was seated next to his successor, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, while chief of staff Reince Priebus sat next to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, his friend from his home state. The president’s daughter Ivanka Trump was seated between Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

Ken Thomas, The Associated Press