Congressional Democrats gather amid simmering concerns over Biden’s re-election


Washington — Democrats in Congress met Tuesday as lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill for the first time this week after President Biden’s Disastrous Debate last month, which has raised concerns within the party about the way forward and to call to action that Biden will withdraw from the 2024 presidential race.

House Democrats gather in listening session to raise concerns about Biden’s future

In what looks set to be a pivotal week in Biden’s fight to stay in the presidential race, House Democrats met behind closed doors on Tuesday to privately debate his place at the top of the ticket.

The meeting, held at the Democratic campaign headquarters outside the Capitol, lasted nearly two hours, with members taking turns speaking for two minutes. The discussion, described by Democrats as a “listening session,” appeared to reflect the broader public discourse around the president in recent days, with some Democrats reaffirming their support for Mr. Biden, others calling for him to step aside, and dozens saying they would reserve judgment until they saw more of the president in public.

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Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas, who last week became the first Democratic lawmaker to call on Mr. Biden to step aside, told reporters in the meeting that he advocated for a replacement for the president. And in a statement posted on social media late Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey the seventh Democrat in the House to call on Mr. Biden to step aside and ask that he “declare that he will not seek re-election and help us lead a process to select a new nominee.”

Sherrill is the first Democrat in Congress to call on Mr Biden to step aside after his letter to Democrats on Monday saying he was committed to staying in the race. She said she felt she had to “make the strongest possible case for new leadership so we can really prosecute the case against Donald Trump.”

At the same time, a number of lawmakers, including Reps. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Hank Johnson of Georgia and Juan Vargas of California, voiced their support for the president as they entered and exited the meeting.

“We’re going to go with Biden,” South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn, a longtime friend of the president, told reporters, calling the meeting “very positive.”

While the House has been the source of sporadic calls for Mr. Biden to withdraw from the race, a number of House Democrats have also been among the most vocal supporters of the president’s re-election, including Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, who said earlier this week that the president must leave the race told reporters on a private conference call Tuesday morning that he supports Biden, saying he has made it clear that he is running, “and to me that is decisive — “We have to support him.”

On Monday evening, Mr. Biden also said: got a boost from members of the Congressional Black Caucus after they joined their call to talk about the election. And even among some progressives who often break with the president, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, there have been expressions of support.

Ocasio-Cortez told reporters that she spoke with the president over the weekend and that he made it clear that he was not dropping out of the race.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries speaks to reporters as he leaves a meeting at the U.S. Capitol on July 8, 2024 in Washington, D.C.

Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images

“The case is closed,” she said. “Joe Biden is our nominee. He is not leaving this race. He is in this race and I support him.”

Most notably, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries reiterated his support for the president on Monday, saying, “I made it clear publicly the day after the debate that I support President Joe Biden and the Democratic ticket. My position has not changed.”

On Tuesday, Jeffries told reporters that the meeting “gave members an opportunity to express themselves in a candid and comprehensive manner,” adding that “discussions will continue throughout the week.”

There appeared to be no consensus at the end of the meeting. As one lawmaker left the building, Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee was asked by reporters if Democrats were on the same page. “No,” he replied. “We’re not even in the same book.”

Senate Democrats and Biden

Senate Democrats also met Tuesday for their weekly caucus luncheon. And despite some clear signs of support — or lack thereof — in the House, strong commitments are harder to come by in the more deliberative upper chamber anyway. No Senate Democrats have publicly called for the president’s resignation, with some taking a wait-and-see approach.

Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat and the chamber’s speaker pro tempore, said in a statement Monday that while she has “great respect” for the president, he “must do more to show he can campaign strongly enough to defeat Donald Trump.”

“President Biden must seriously consider how best to preserve his incredible legacy and ensure it will continue into the future,” she said.

Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who is running for re-election in the key state, told reporters ahead of the meeting that she had heard “a lot of input” from voters about the July 4 holiday, including “expressions of concern” about the president’s ability to win the election.

“I think everyone is watching his performance very closely this week and I think that will be very informative,” Baldwin said.

But others were unequivocal in their support for the president ahead of the rally. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said she was confident Mr. Biden would “kick Trump’s ass” in November. And Senator Jon Ossoff of Georgia said he supported the president.

Vermont Sen. Peter Welch said that “we all supported President Biden,” adding that “this is an existential question about how best to defeat Trump.” When asked whether the president could defeat Trump in November, Welch said that “the voters will decide.”

Senate Democrats emerged from the lengthy meeting saying there was unity within the caucus, though they remained tight-lipped about the details of the meeting, which Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan called a “private family discussion.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut told reporters there was “consensus” on defeating Trump in November, though he noted there was no “specific outcome in terms of a decision going forward.” Sen. Peter Welch of Vermont, who been critical of the Biden campaign’s response to the debate, saying “we’ve got a long way to go” as he left the meeting. Others kept it simple, like Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, who said, “Joe Biden is our guy, he’s my guy.”

When Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was repeatedly asked during a weekly press conference after the meeting about the president’s ability to serve another four years, he repeated three times, “I’m with Joe.”

Attention in the coming days will likely focus on the Senate, where Biden represented Delaware for more than three decades.

The meetings come after the president sent a letter to Democrats in Congress on Monday saying he was “committed” to staying in the race and that he would not run for re-election if he “did not absolutely believe that I am the best person to defeat Donald Trump in 2024.”

Nikole Killion, Alejandro Alvarez and Catherine Walter contributed reporting.

Kaia Hubbard


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