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The Republican governor of Utah would join Biden in promoting health care for veterans

SALT LAKE CITY — Republican Utah Governor Spencer Cox will join President Joe Biden here for an event highlighting a major expansion of veterans’ health care, the White House and the governor’s office told NBC News Wednesday.

The bipartisan appearance on Thursday marks a year since the passage of the PACT bill, a measure that expanded health care for veterans to military personnel 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 Wednesday evening, will speak next to the president at a Salt Lake City VA Medical Center.

Utah Governor Spencer Cox in Salt Lake City on March 4, 2022. (Rick Bowmer/AP file)

The PACT bill was part of Biden’s so-called unity agenda, initiatives that his administration says should be two-pronged 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 linked to his service in Iraq. Beau Biden died less than two years later.

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Thursday will be a rare appearance in which Biden and a Republican governor promote one of the president’s legislative initiatives. In January, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine joined Biden and other bipartisan leaders in flagging infrastructure bill funding for a major bridge connecting Ohio and Kentucky.

Biden has joined other GOP governors, including Florida’s Ron DeSantis, on visits related to storm recovery. Texas Governor Greg Abbott had a brief meeting with Biden earlier this year when the president visited the US-Mexico border.

Cox, 48, is now president of the National Governors Association. Last month, he launched “Disagree Better,” an NGA initiative designed to promote a more civic political discourse to solve some of the country’s most pressing challenges.

Biden praised Cox earlier this year when he hosted the annual Governors Ball at the White House.

“I promise I won’t tell anyone how much I love you,” Biden joked during his toast.

Cox hasn’t weighed in on his party’s crowded 2024 field except to say, as he did on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in February, that he’d rather see a governor lead the ticket. He continued on CBS’ “Face the Nation” last month, saying he hoped his party could “turn the page and try something different.”

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“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.

However, Cox has made it clear when he disagrees with the Biden administration. Just prior to Biden’s arrival, the governor issued a statement expressing his frustration with Biden’s Arizona announcement that he would designate a new national monument around the Grand Canyon.

“Huge landscape-scale monuments like this are a mistake,” Cox said. “These designations increase attendance without providing additional resources for law enforcement and infrastructure to protect sensitive areas.”

Days before Biden’s arrival, the FBI shot and killed a Provo, Utah man who allegedly threatened the president’s life. In a post Monday, the suspect, Craig Deleeuw Robertson, cited Biden’s upcoming visit to the state and said he should prepare his camouflage and sniper rifle.

Biden was briefed on the incident by senior personnel on Wednesday morning.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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