With Congress under Republican control, the Obama administration will target state and local governments as one avenue to push its agenda with the new White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Jerry Abramson starting Monday.
Kentucky's Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, left, answers questions during a press conference at the Capitol Building Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014, in Frankfort, Ky., announcing his resignation to accept a position as Deputy Assistant to President Barack Obama. Looking on at right is Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Abramson stepped down from his post as Kentucky’s Democratic lieutenant governor last Thursday and previously served as mayor of Louisville for 21 years.
“Lieutenant Governor Abramson's expertise will be a significant asset to the administration's ongoing work with state and local officials around the country to expand opportunity for all Americans, including our efforts to increase the minimum wage in states and cities, to help Americans sign up for health insurance during the upcoming open enrollment period, and to ensure more working families feel the impacts of our growing economy,” a White House official told TheBlaze.
The White House focus on Obamacare and the minimum wage are significant.
Why tap a politician from a state President Obama lost in 2008 and 2012 by more than 20 percent to be White House liaison to state governments? Kentucky Democrats have been able to boast about Obamacare’s implementation. Recall Gov. Steve Beshear was praised during Obama’s State of the Union this year. Abramson was chairman of Kentucky Health Now, key in enrolling more people in Obamacare.
The other issue the White House official raised — the minimum wage — may have been one area of solace for Obama this year, as voters in four states supported a wage hike, albeit less than the president’s desired $10.10 per hour.
Abramson will report to White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, the White House official told TheBlaze.
[sharequote align="center"]The White House focus on Obamacare and the minimum wage are significant.[/sharequote]
While the state government liaison position is not new, Abramson’s experience as both a number-two state official and longtime mayor brings more to the job’s focus than his predecessor David Agnew, a former Clinton Labor Department official.
He does enter the White House job with a few spotty points on his watch as Louisville mayor concerning scandals in the city’s Metropolitan Sewer District, the Department of Neighborhoods and the Department of Housing.
But as mayor Abramson worked closely with incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to get earmarks for the city’s infrastructure, and the two also rallied bipartisan support in 2000 to merge Louisville’s city and Jefferson County's governments. Still Abramson denied to the Daily Beast he would be a White House point man to cut deals with McConnell.
“I’m extremely excited because I feel my 35 years of public service in local and state government give me a leg up in efforts to implement the administration’s agenda at the grassroots,” Abramson said. “Our state and local governments are the laboratories of our democracy, and I can’t wait to bring my energies to bring change to our nation’s communities.”
For his part, McConnell was happy for the appointment.
“This is a great honor for Jerry, who I have known for many years,” the Republican Senate leader told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “We have worked together on important issues impacting the Commonwealth, and it is always good to have a Kentuckian in the White House. I wish Jerry well in his new role.”