WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Thursday will relaunch the council of governors, an advisory board of governors and a number of key Cabinet secretaries and top administration officials focused on strengthening federal and state collaboration on major national security issues.
According to details shared first with The Associated Press, Biden is appointing a bipartisan group of nine governors to the council, including seven new governors, and naming two current council members, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, as co-chairs of the group.
The seven new governors are Biden’s home-state governor, Delaware Gov. John Carney, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, all Democrats, as well as Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott and Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, all Republicans. They’ll join Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on the council; his term expires next year.
The council was first established by President Barack Obama in 2010 by executive order, and it includes the defense secretary, homeland security secretary, and the heads of the Coast Guard and National Guard, among others. It’s intended to foster cooperation among governors and the federal government on issues including extreme weather, cyberattacks, domestic and international terrorism, and public health and safety. Governors serve a two-year term on the council.
Homeland security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall said Biden has made clear from the start of his presidency that “he expects us to work proactively with our state and local partners to effectively meet the complex homeland security challenges that we face today and to prepare for what is coming our way.”
“We are focused on doing everything we can in collaboration with the Nation’s governors to safeguard and support our communities. This Council will play an important role in advancing that close collaboration going forward,” she said in a statement.
The White House said the picks are meant to reflect not only a commitment to bipartisanship but also a diverse range of regions and states.
A number of the Democrats have long and close relationships with the president. As a candidate, Biden interviewed Whitmer as a potential vice-presidential pick. Carney is one of Biden’s political mentees in Delaware and is married to one of Biden’s longtime Senate aides. Brown’s former chief of staff serves as the chief of staff in the White House Office of Cabinet Affairs.
And at a time of deep political division in America, when a number of the nation’s most prominent GOP governors initially refused to recognize Biden’s presidential win, Biden has chosen a handful of more moderate Republican governors to join the council.
DeWine was one of the earliest high-profile Republicans to acknowledge Biden’s victory, and Scott said he voted for Biden during the 2020 campaign. DeWine joined Cox and Walz at a public event where the president lauded state governments’ responses to the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, and Cox and Gordon both joined the president on a virtual meeting last month focused on the severe wildfires erupting in Western states this year.
Julie Rodriguez, director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, said governors are “on the frontlines of the most critical issues confronting our country."
“Their insight, expertise, and ability to mobilize resources in times of need are critical to our Administration’s efforts to keep our homeland safe,” she said.