House Democrats still split on Biden after high-stakes meeting - Roll Call (2024)

House Democrats on Tuesday failed to reach a consensus about whether President Joe Biden should continue his bid for a second term, as he showed no signs of stepping aside.

The caucus met for a much-anticipated and high-stakes meeting behind closed doors amid Democratic lawmakers’ and donors’ concerns about Biden’s sluggish debate performance on June 27. Some have called for him to step aside and let younger Democratic figures pursue the party’s presidential nomination.

Team Biden has gone on the offensive, with the 81-year-old president himself calling into a popular cable morning show on Monday, followed by a call with Democratic donors. Biden also sent a letter to congressional Democrats on Monday stating his strong intention to remain in the race and calling for party unity to defeat former President Donald Trump, the expected GOP nominee.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, who had previously called for Biden to step aside, said as he left the Democratic huddle that “the debate cannot be unseen.”

“The president has been running behind. We needed a surge. We got a setback. He is a great man who has made a great contribution to the country,” Doggett said, adding of a possible Trump second term: “But he shouldn’t leave a legacy that endangers us, that we surrender to a tyrant.”

Rep. Lou Correa, D-Calif., told reporters that “voters chose Biden as their nominee, not us in a closed room.” He also downplayed what is seen as Biden’s biggest weakness, that he’d be the oldest president ever elected if he wins in November.

“There’s concerns about everything. There’s concerns about Trump. When you talk about [Biden’s] age, I mean, 80 is the new 60,” Correa said.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said Biden “deserves our support” and vowed to “go to several states” on the president’s behalf. “Biden is going to win,” she added.

Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Texas, noted that Biden trailed other Democratic candidates during the 2020 party primary. “He can do this if we focus on the real threat: Project 2025, Donald Trump and MAGA,” she said.

Crockett was referring to Project 2025, an extensive collection of ideas about a potential Trump second term crafted by some of Trump’s former aides and other conservatives.

But Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., left the session saying he still has concerns about Biden’s ability to run again and serve out another four-year term.

“He’ll bring the ticket down this time,” Quigley said. “He just has to step down because he can’t win, and my colleagues need to recognize that. A dismissive letter is not going to change any minds.”

And New Jersey Rep. Mikie Sherrill, a Navy veteran who is preparing to run for governor next year if she wins another House term in November, joined the chorus of those urging Biden to end his bid for another term.

“When I think of my four children and all the rights that another Trump presidency endangers … the stakes are too high — and the threat is too real — to stay silent,” Sherrill said in a statement posted on the social media platform X. “Because I know President Biden cares deeply about the future of our country, I am asking that he declare that he won’t run for reelection and will help lead us through a process toward a new nominee.”

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., said at a news conference that the caucus meeting was focused on “listening to members. There was no instruction to get on the same page.” He added that Biden was the nominee and “we support the Democratic nominee that will beat Donald Trump.”

As congressional Democrats bickered behind closed doors, with some later expressing concerns anew about Biden’s abilities, the president delivered a speech at the start of a NATO summit in Washington without error. He criticized Russia’s war in Ukraine, pledged new air defenses for Kyiv, and presented outgoing alliance leader Jens Stoltenberg the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

RealClearPolitics’ average of multiple national polls, updated Tuesday, gave Trump a 47.5 percent to 44.1 percent lead. At the same point in the 2020 race, Biden led Trump by 9 percentage points in the RCP average, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led him by 4.7 percentage points in 2016. Some recent polling suggests Vice President Kamala Harris would do better in a head-to-head race against Trump.

A poll of Wisconsin voters released Tuesday by AARP showed Trump led Biden 44 percent to 38 percent on a multi-candidate ballot and 50 percent to 45 percent in a head-to-head matchup. The same survey, however, showed Sen. Tammy Baldwin leading likely Republican opponent Eric Hovde 50 percent to 45 percent. The poll was taken June 28 to July 2, and 66 percent of voters said they watched the debate while another 25 percent followed it on the news. Of those voters, 56 percent said Trump won the debate versus 13 percent who said Biden won.

Amid Democrats’ concerns and more negative polls for Biden, however, House and Senate Democrats have no mechanism with which to remove Biden from the ticket. He cruised through states’ Democratic primaries and has secured more than enough delegates to become the nominee when the party holds its convention in Chicago next month.

House GOP leaders used their weekly news conference, in part, to gloat about the disarray within the Democratic caucus over Biden’s condition.

Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., who has spent months defending Trump, took stock of what he called “the smallest crowd ever assembled for a Republican press conference.”

“I don’t know where everybody is this morning,” Johnson deadpanned. “Oh, they’re chasing down the Democrats for a change. This is a really interesting phenomenon.”

Johnson also accused Democrats of “covering up” Biden’s mental condition.

“Democrats, our colleagues, for three-and-a-half years have been covering up this glaring problem,” he said. “They misled the American people, and this is dangerous.”

That assessment stands in stark contrast to one offered by John Kirby, White House national security communications adviser, who on Monday defended the president’s mental abilities and stamina. Kirby told reporters that Biden sometimes stumps staffers with “probing” questions during meetings.

“In my experience, the last two-and-a-half years, I have not seen any reason whatsoever to question or doubt his lucidity, his grasp of context, his probing nature and the degree to which he is completely in charge of facts and figures,” Kirby said.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., on Monday said he still supports Biden as the party’s nominee.

But Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, a Democratic leadership member and chamber president pro tempore, said, “We need to see a much more forceful and energetic candidate on the campaign trail in the very near future in order for him to convince voters he is up to the job.

“At this critical time for our country, President Biden must seriously consider the best way to preserve his incredible legacy and secure it for the future,” Murray said in a statement from her campaign organization.

Senate Democrats also met behind closed doors later Tuesday and discussed Biden. Afterward, Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., repeatedly stuck to one line that did not really answer questions about whether the president should remain in the race or if he could hurt Democrats further down the ballot.

“As I’ve said before, I’m with Joe,” Schumer said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D.-Conn., would not discuss the president specifically, but said Senate Democrats “have a very strong measure of unity and determination that we’re going to win this November.”

He called consensus on what Biden should do “a moveable feast” but said there was agreement that Trump needs to be defeated “and that the future of our country depends on it.”

While Sen. Ron Wyden, D.-Ore., would not comment on whether Biden should step aside, he reiterated his call that Biden do more to convince voters that he’s up to the task of running and serving.

“Right now the president has said that he’s in and he says he’s running. Period. Full stop,” Wyden said. “I have said for quite some time, I’ve told people in the administration I don’t think there’s any substitute out there for unscripted, town hall kind-of meetings. … That’s what I think the country’s hungry for.”

On Monday, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said he “never had reason to question … his ability to be a patriot and put the country first, and I’m sure he will make a decision that does that,” adding, “That decision is going to be one that I’m going to support.”

Kaine suggested that observers shouldn’t expect unanimity when Senate Democrats scatter after their meeting.

“Democrats on the same page? Dogs and cats living together?” he quipped. “I don’t know.”

John T. Bennett, David Lerman, Aidan Quigley, Briana Reilly, Daniela Altimari and Herb Jackson contributed to this report.

House Democrats still split on Biden after high-stakes meeting - Roll Call (2024)
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