WASHINGTON — President Obama on Monday beseeched the nation’s governors to partner with him on elements of his agenda to help the middle class in the face of congressional gridlock, saying there was room for collaboration on economic issues, health care and criminal justice reform.
“I’m in the fourth quarter of my presidency — or, as some of you might call it, the kickoff for your campaign season — but I think there’s still a lot that we can get done together,” Mr. Obama told the governors on Monday at the White House, where they were wrapping up their winter meeting.
He said it was time to “move past some of the habits of manufactured crisis and self-inflicted wounds” that he said had been created by Congress, including the looming threat of a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security because of a dispute over Mr. Obama’s recent immigration directives.
“It will have a direct impact on your economy, and it will have a direct impact on America’s national security,” Mr. Obama said of a lapse in funding for the department, in which the staff would be furloughed or forced to work without pay. “Their hard work helps to keep us safe, and as governors, you know that we can’t afford to play politics with our national security.”
The president also thanked the governors from both parties who have expanded their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act, and made a pitch to those who have not changed their stances.
“I’d urge you to consider it, because our team is prepared to work with you to make it happen,” Mr. Obama said.
There is room for governors to work with the White House on elements of his agenda “even when Congress does not act or does not act fast enough,” Mr. Obama said.
He cited criminal justice changes as an example, noting that in Georgia, the Republican governor, Nathan Deal, has provided judges with alternatives to mandatory minimum sentences.
Also on Monday, Mr. Obama will move to tighten regulations on investment professionals who handle retirement savings accounts, calling for new rules to protect investors from receiving conflict-ridden advice from brokers looking out for their own bottom lines.
Mr. Obama’s push, part of a yearslong effort by his administration to strengthen the rules governing financial advice, is likely to draw opposition from congressional Republicans and well-funded industry players who have argued that such regulations would raise costs for investors.
But they reflect the president’s determination to fix a little-understood and potentially costly problem that affects millions of Americans each year.
The Council of Economic Advisers estimates that more than 40 million families have money in retirement savings accounts that are worth more than $7 trillion, said Jason Furman, the council’s chairman, adding that the conflict-ridden advice can lower annual returns by an average of one percentage point, accounting for losses of as much as $17 billion each year.