Home Editor's Pick Democrats in Congress mostly resist calling for Biden to drop out despite private concerns: reports

Democrats in Congress mostly resist calling for Biden to drop out despite private concerns: reports

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Democrats in Congress mostly resisted calling for President Biden to drop out of the race despite raising private concerns during an all-caucus, closed-door meeting Tuesday, according to reports. 

Lawmakers returned to Washington, D.C., this week after the Fourth of July recess, offering Democrats the first time to get together in person and discuss Biden’s disastrous debate performance two weeks ago. 

However, in a sharply worded letter sent Monday, Biden insisted that he would stay in the race and urged party leaders to refocus their criticisms on former President Trump. The letter seemed to at least temporarily slow the momentum of Democrats who are publicly calling for the president to step aside. Most members instead are towing the party line on Biden publicly, at least for now. 

At least 20 Democratic lawmakers stood up to speak during the nearly two-hour all-caucus meeting Tuesday, in what for many is an existential moment for their country considering a second Trump presidency, The Associated Press reported. Most of those who spoke wanted Biden to end his candidacy, a person granted anonymity to discuss the meeting told the outlet.

However, speaking publicly afterward, most Democrats who had urged against Biden continuing his re-election campaign have recanted, according to Axios. They acknowledged it would be too difficult to replace him as their nominee at this stage, just weeks before Democrats will convene at their convention in Chicago. Conversations between House and Senate Democrats were ‘dour’ and ‘sad,’ lawmakers in the meeting told the AP. 

‘He said he’s going to remain in, he’s our candidate, and we’re going to support him,’ Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said on CNN. 

Over the weekend, Nadler was among those privately saying Biden should not run, explicitly telling colleagues on a call Sunday that the president needed to drop out of the race, the New York Times reported. Nadler backtracked after Tuesday’s meeting, instead stating that his reservations were ‘beside the point’ and that Biden was ‘going to be our nominee.’ 

‘He has the delegates. I keep telling them that,’ Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., told Politico of Biden. ‘He got 14 million votes. Nobody else has any.’

‘I’m staying with Papa,’ Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., said, according to the AP. He said his constituents understand what the country went through during the COVID-19 pandemic and how Biden led through the crisis. ‘He was fit then, and he’s fit now.’

Democrats on Sunday had described this week as critical for Biden to prove that his campaign is viable. 

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who briefly ran for president himself, stated Sunday that Biden needs to ‘reassure the American people that he can run a vigorous campaign to defeat Donald Trump.’ 

Bennett confirmed to CNN on Tuesday that he told lawmakers during the closed-door session he does not believe Biden can defeat Trump in November. 

‘I think we could lose the whole thing,’ he said, referring to the White House and both chambers of Congress. 

While the all-hands meeting resolved most Democrats to inaction, late in the day Tuesday a seventh House Democrat, Rep. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, publicly called on Biden not to run for re-election. With Trump seeking to return to the White House, ‘the stakes are too high – and the threat is too real – to stay silent,’ Sherrill said. 

Among the seven who have stuck their necks out publicly by calling for Biden to step aside is Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee. 

‘The idea that we are going to slow-walk into fascism because we don’t want to hurt somebody that we respect’s feelings – I cannot even begin to tell you how angry that makes me,’ Smith said, according to the Times.

Before the all-caucus gathering on Tuesday, a smaller group of Democrats facing competitive House races in November were ‘pretty much unanimous’ in a separate meeting of their own that Biden has ‘got to step down,’ Axios reported, citing lawmakers involved. ‘There were actual tears from people, and not for Biden,’ one lawmaker told the outlet. 

The majority of Democratic senators who spoke during the lunch meeting expressed deep concerns about whether Biden can beat Trump in November, though they stopped short of saying he should step down from the race, a person familiar with the conversation and granted anonymity to discuss it told the AP. There were also a handful of senators who defended Biden. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York repeated, ‘I’ve said before, I’m with Joe.’

Some are turning more serious attention to Vice President Kamala Harris as an alternative, the AP reported.

Biden spent part of his Tuesday evening speaking on a virtual call with more than 200 Democratic mayors, saying he will win re-election with ‘basic block-and-tackling’ and boasting of the thousands of calls being made to voters, doors being knocked and signs being posted in support of his candidacy, according to a readout from his campaign.

That came after the president met virtually late Monday with the Congressional Black Caucus, whose members are core to Biden’s coalition, thanking them for having his back, and assuring them he would have theirs in a second term. He was also to meet with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, whose leadership – along with that of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus – has said publicly they are sticking with the president.

Rep. Jasmine Crockett of Texas, a freshman Democrat, said there is too much at stake to turn away from Biden at this point in the campaign, saying a second Trump presidency would be extremely harmful to Black Americans across the country. ‘We are not willing to risk our freedoms for somebody feeling good because there’s a different name on the ballot,’ she said.

Having been on the campaign trail with Biden, Crockett told the AP, ‘That is why I can feel so confident, because I have seen more than the 90 minutes that everybody is so concerned about.’

Additionally, Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., who ended his long-shot 2024 Democratic presidential bid months ago, was asked by reporters if he felt vindicated by Democrats calling on Biden to step aside. 

‘If this is vindication, vindication has never been so unfulfilling,’ he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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