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Vice President Joe Biden calls on governors to lead nation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Vice President Joe Biden on Friday condemned the political gridlock crippling Washington, calling on Republican and Democratic governors alike to lead the nation "out of this mess" while insisting that Congress approve billions of dollars to repair the country's aging infrastructure.

"The way things have gotten today, and I'm not singling out any party or any group of people - the politics, the culture in Washington, it's become too personal, it's too corrosive," Biden said during a meeting of the National Governors Association. "I think you've got to lead us out of this mess we're in."

The vice president's comments came during the first day of the governors' three-day conference in Nashville, where state leaders from both parties gathered to collaborate despite intensifying partisan differences on immigration, health care and education.

Despite the bipartisan tone, the approaching midterm elections loomed over the gathering.

Many governors face voters in an election season that will decide the balance of power in statehouses from Nevada to New Hampshire and could end some presidential campaigns before they begin.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a first-term governor locked in a heated re-election battle, lead a group of ambitious Republicans that appeared at the downtown Nashville conference. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley is among the Democrats weighing a 2016 presidential run.

"You can be in a room where you have six, seven, eight people who are thinking they might run for president in two years, which makes for some interesting personal dynamics at times," Tennessee's Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said.

Biden, a possible presidential contender himself, struck a distinctly cooperative tone in his remarks.

The political climate in Washington, he said, was less divisive when he began serving in the Senate more than three decades ago, a time when white segregationists served openly in Congress.

"Even in those days, the politics was intense, ideological differences were real, but it never got to where it is today," Biden said. "It was never personal. It was never cast in the context of you're good or bad."

Biden said Democrats and Republicans have long agreed on the need to invest in the nation's infrastructure and workforce development, although in the current climate even infrastructure spending is bogged down by politics. Governors have been concerned about the impending deadline for Congress to pay for the federal Highway Trust Fund, which helps states maintain their transportation infrastructure. While a short-term bill is expected to clear Congress, governors want a long-term plan.

But most governors attending the event were hesitant to suggest specific solutions to bridge a funding shortfall.

Fuel taxes are the Highway Trust Fund's main revenue source, but they haven't been raised in 21 years and aren't keeping pace with spending. A bipartisan Senate proposal to increase the federal gas tax has so far failed to gain traction.

"I'm sort of indifferent as to the source of the funding," said Jack Markell, the Democratic governor of Delaware, which was forced to close a damaged interstate bridge last month. "But I think what we can't have is a series of these eight-month stop-gap measures."

Walker, the Wisconsin Republican, would not endorse an increase in the federal gas tax when asked, but he called for "other revenue options."

"It's a big deal," Walker said. "So many states like Wisconsin are dependent on the federal gas tax."

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky said his state has had to put $185 million of road projects on hold because of the congressional impasse.

It's unclear what role, if any, infrastructure problems will play in the coming elections, although Washington's struggle with what was long a bipartisan issue is emblematic of voters' overall view of Congress, which is at historic lows.

"We're looking to you," Biden told the governors. "Continue to teach us a lesson by getting along with one another."

Join the discussion

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gallierl July 11 2014 at 6:10 PM

Biden is just as responsible as the other "career" DC politicians. This appears as him just posturing himself for a run at the presidential nomination. As for fixing the roads, if you can't afford the gas, who needs a road?

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42 replies
Secrist Family July 11 2014 at 6:11 PM

The old GAFF blow hole speaks again...does he really think he's worth listening to???

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14 replies
ted_wilson7 July 11 2014 at 6:11 PM

When's Obama going to "lead the nation"…….somewhere other than down the drain that is?

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47 replies
diempostdiem July 11 2014 at 6:11 PM

Governors in Texas and Arizona and other border states can start by loading all the illegals being dumped on them onto buses and driving them to the White House and dumping them on the lawn. That would be a great start. PS, Biden is an idiot.

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48 replies
billcdaly July 11 2014 at 6:12 PM

Beginning to sound like his boss, blaming everyone else.
If the current administration didn't advocate amnesty for all illegal children already here, we might not have this large influx.

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18 replies
tcsawyer July 11 2014 at 6:13 PM

Thank God for the gridlock in Washington. Without staunch opposition to Obama's agenda, the country would have already disintegrated. Now it will be another. 20 years or so.

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22 replies
mmcdona484 July 11 2014 at 6:16 PM

The reason no one wants to impeach Obama is that this idiot would become president. Now that is a scary thought.

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50 replies
wl2judd July 11 2014 at 6:16 PM

This from the guy who laughed non-stop through the vice-presidential debate?

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10 replies
lawless.obama.government July 11 2014 at 6:50 PM

Mr. Biden,
There is no secret here...
America now knows
The "Great Divider" all too well.
----- Barack Hussein Obama -----
His well trained Party of dividers
have said for 6 years now -
"We won so we call all the shots".
Obama and his Democrat Party
Are the political gridlock that is
crippling our country...
They are YOUR team sir...

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28 replies
Rob July 11 2014 at 6:15 PM

I think some of his hair plugs are starting to fail.

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15 replies
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