SALT LAKE CITY — Republican Gov. Spencer Cox of Utah is set to join President Joe Biden here for an event highlighting a major expansion of veterans health care, the White House and governor’s office told NBC News on Wednesday.
The bipartisan appearance on Thursday will mark one year since passage of the PACT Act, a measure that expanded eligibility for veterans health care to servicemembers exposed to toxic chemicals during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as Vietnam and the Gulf War.
Cox, who will greet Biden after Air Force One arrives here on Wednesday evening, will speak alongside the president at a Salt Lake City VA Medical Center.
The PACT Act was part of Biden’s so-called unity agenda, initiatives that his administration has said should be bipartisan priorities. It was a personal priority for Biden — 10 years ago this month, his son Beau was diagnosed with a glioblastoma brain tumor that the president has connected to his service in Iraq. Beau Biden died less than two years later.
Thursday will be a rare appearance featuring Biden and a Republican governor promoting one of the president’s legislative initiatives. In January, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine joined Biden and other bipartisan leaders to mark funding from the infrastructure law for a major bridge connecting Ohio and Kentucky.
Biden has joined other GOP governors, including Florida’s Ron DeSantis, on visits tied to storm recovery efforts. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott met briefly with Biden earlier this year as the president visited the U.S.-Mexico border.
Cox, 48, now serves as chair of the National Governors Association. Last month, he launched “Disagree Better,” an NGA initiative meant to promote a more civil political discourse to solve some of the nation’s most pressing challenges.
Biden praised Cox earlier this year as he hosted the annual Governors Ball at the White House.
“I promise I won’t tell anybody how much I like you,” Biden joked during his toast.
Cox has not weighed in on his party’s crowded 2024 field other than to say, as he did on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in February, that he’d prefer to see a governor leading the ticket. He went further on CBS’ “Face the Nation” last month, saying that he hoped his party could “turn the page and try something else.”
“I like governors. I think governors are great and have real experience,” said Cox, who has said he will seek a second term in 2024.
Cox, though, has made clear when he disagrees with the Biden administration. Just ahead of Biden’s arrival, the governor issued a statement expressing frustration with Biden’s announcement in Arizona designating a new national monument around the Grand Canyon.
“Massive, landscape-scale monuments like this are a mistake,” Cox said. “These designations increase visitation without providing additional resources for law enforcement and infrastructure to protect sensitive areas.”
Days ahead of Biden’s arrival, the FBI shot and killed a Provo, Utah, man who had allegedly made threats to the president’s life. In one post on Monday, the suspect, Craig Deleeuw Robertson, cited Biden’s upcoming visit to the state and said he was “cleaning the dust off” a sniper rifle.
Biden was briefed about the incident by senior staff Wednesday morning.