WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump on Wednesday praised the "fantastic job" by Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly during the coronavirus pandemic as the Republican-controlled state Legislature prepares to limit the Democratic governor's emergency authority.
Trump joined Kelly and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, both chief executives of states with major food processing sectors, for a one-hour meeting in the White House Cabinet Room. Kelly thanked the president for sending in a "CDC swat team" when outbreaks began to threaten Kansas' massive meatpacking plants.
Kelly said the resources "really helped us set up the kind of system that we needed to have in place to ensure that those plants could stay (open). And I'm very proud to say that Kansas is one of the few" states that has not shut down packing plants.
Kansas processes more than a quarter of the nation's beef, and plants cut production by half or more at the height of the crisis as workers tested positive and others stayed home.
"You've been on most of those calls, Laura," Trump, referring to regular calls the White House has held with governors during the pandemic. "I think we can say the Democrats have been as nice about what we've done as the Republicans. I mean it's been terrific, and you know, Laura, I know she will speak her mind and so will some of the others, and if she was unhappy she'd be letting you know it."
While Trump had kind words for Kelly, the president has attacked other Democratic governors during the crisis. In March, he said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was "always complaining" and accused Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of "not stepping up."
The meeting marked a new phase of Kelly's relationship with the president and his administration. She repeatedly complained earlier in the crisis that her requests for personal protective gear and testing supplies went unheeded. At one point, Vice President Mike Pence spoke to Kelly directly about her concerns.
But those past frustrations have faded. In recent weeks, Kansas has ramped up testing after newfound success securing supplies, including from overseas.
Kelly has also begun lifting restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Restaurants are again allowed to seat socially distanced customers, and retail stores have reopened their doors. Theaters and museums may resume operations on Friday.
On Thursday, Republican lawmakers will try to give counties more power to set their own rules -- possibly limiting the governor's power moving forward.