Another senior Democrat suggests Biden should step down

The mood on Capitol Hill has turned grimly uncertain as Democrats wrestled over US President Joe Biden's re-election and the extraordinary question before them - whether to stand behind his candidacy or push the president to bow out amid concerns over his ability to lead them to victory.

House and Senate Democrats met privately on Tuesday with tensions running high.

The conversation was "dour" and "sad" in the House, legislators said, as they discussed their party leader who emphatically refuses to step aside and implored them in a sharply worded letter to refocus from him to the threat posed by Republican Donald Trump.

In the Senate, where Biden spent a storied career, they said even less.

Late in the day, a seventh House Democrat, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, publicly said Mr Biden should not run for re-election.

A military veteran, Sherrill said with Trump running for the White House, "the stakes are too high - and the threat is too real - to stay silent".

"I realise this is hard, but we have done hard things in pursuit of democracy since the founding of this nation," she said in a statement.

"It is time to do so again."

What could become a time for Democrats to bolster their president, who remains the favourite for some despite his poor debate performance and public appearances, instead fell deeper into crisis over real fears they could lose the White House and Congress and watch the rise of a second-term Trump.

Earlier, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York said members had "an opportunity to express themselves in a candid and comprehensive fashion" at a closed-door session and the discussions would continue.

It is a remarkable moment for the president and his party with Democrats in Congress seriously questioning Biden's place at the top of the ticket, weeks before the Democratic National Convention to nominate him for a second term.

Biden's supporters have been emerging as the most vocal, and at least one key House Democrat reversed course to publicly support the president.

But no agreement was in sight and an undercurrent of dissent runs strong. As Senate Democrats stayed silent in public, Biden's political future was the remarkable matter in question.

Asked if there was any consensus, Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, one of Biden's closest supporters said, the "consensus is that Donald Trump poses a threat and the focus should be on that".

In the private House meeting on Tuesday, there was a growing concern that Biden remaining in the race means the election will centre on his age issues instead of Trump, according to one of the people in the room.

At least 20 Democratic legislators stood up to speak during the nearly two-hour session in what for many is an existential moment for their country considering a second Trump presidency.

Most of those who spoke wanted Biden to end his candidacy, said another person granted anonymity to discuss the meeting.

Many Democrats worry that not only is the presidency in jeopardy but also their own down-ballot races for control of the House and Senate - and the party's ability to stop Trump and the conservative Project 2025 agenda with its plans to weaken the federal government.

"He just has to step down because he can't win," said Mike Quigley of Illinois.