Though the two did not exchange hugs, Gov. Phil Murphy and President Donald Trump were anything but stingy in exchanging praises during a televised meeting in the Oval Office Thursday.
“We see this as a partnership, doing the right thing in what is the worst healthcare crisis in the history of our nation,” Murphy said. “And I want to again thank the president for an extraordinary spirit of partnership across the whole spectrum of our needs.”
The governor and Trump on Thursday discussed various aid measures sought by New Jersey as the number of new COVID-19 cases in the state begins to decline.
Direct federal aid for state and local governments in New jersey was chief among those, with Murphy calling for as much as $30 billion in bailout funds to keep New Jersey from continuing its fiscal tumble.
“We need a significant amount,” the governor said. “This is a big hit, and this is somewhere, in New Jersey alone, could be 20 to 30 billion dollars,” the governor said. “But this is to allow us to keep firefighters, teachers, police, EMS on the payroll serving the communities in their hour of need, and that’s something we feel strongly about.”
Though Trump repeatedly praised Murphy’s handling of the pandemic — as well as his own — he demurred on the possibility of bailing out floundering state government budgets.
It’s not clear whether Trump will push such a bailout.
He said the matter was a “tough” question but did not commit strongly to either side of the issue.
The two were in agreement on the need to expand New Jersey’s virus testing capacity, though few specifics about that plan emerged in the public portion of the meeting, which lasted for about 20 minutes.
“You can’t have a better representative than this man, that I can tell you,” Trump said of Murphy. “Plus, he’s an old Goldman Sachs guy, and what they don’t know about him — he’s done a great job — but he went through a big operation just before this happened, and that’s a hell of a thing.”
The governor underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his left kidney in early March.
Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli and chief of staff George Helmy joined Murphy and Trump in the Oval office.
White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx, U.S. National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows and advisers Kellyanne Conway and Jared Kushner also attended the meeting.
“It’s a great place and a great state, and they have a wonderful man that’s running it,” Trump said, again praising Murphy. “He runs it with heart and with brains, and he’s done a terrific job. We are together, we are working closely.”