Va. gov.: Ready to work with GOP lawmakers, urges Congress to avoid shutdown

1st week in office: Northam addresses his agenda, looming shutdown

WASHINGTON — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam struck an optimistic tone that he’ll be able to push through some key piece of his legislative agenda despite pushback from Republican lawmakers on some of his policies during his first week in office.

“We’re all here to do what’s in the best interests of Virginia. So, we’re going to get some good things done,” Northam told WTOP on Wednesday.

The governor, who previously served in the Senate, said he has good working relationships with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the General Assembly and said he believes they’ll be able to work together.

Despite big election gains by Democrats in November, Republicans maintained a narrow control of both legislative chambers. They used that clout to squash several gun control bills just days after Northam’s inauguration.

“We have to remind our legislators that there was a mandate on Nov. 7. People spoke loudly and clearly and they want responsible gun ownership,” Northam said. “They also want health care for all Virginians. … The people spoke.”

Northam said discussions continue with lawmakers to come up with a plan to ensure access to quality, affordable health care. Democrats have long hoped to expand Virginia’s Medicaid program, but Republicans have repeatedly rejected such proposals.

“I’m optimistic,” he said. “We’re making good progress.”

Northam also weighed in on the looming government shutdown if members of Congress can’t reach a deal to fund the federal government by Friday night.

“It’s past time for our leaders in Washington to get their act together and avoid a government shutdown. It impacts us significantly.”

He urged Congress to do what Americans sent them there to do: pass a budget.

Northern Virginia’s suburbs are home to thousands of federal workers. But the state’s economy is dependent on federal spending — from military installations to federal contractors.

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