More House Democrats Want Biden Out of Race as Tension Rises

(Bloomberg) -- Several influential congressional Democrats said privately on Sunday they want Joe Biden to step aside as the party’s White House nominee, as the US president enters a pivotal week for his teetering reelection campaign.

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The latest defections include several Democratic leaders of House committees, a signal that even some party stalwarts in Congress want a new person at the top of the ticket following Biden’s stumbling debate against Donald Trump last month.

The defections include Jerrold Nadler and Joe Morelle of New York; Adam Smith of Washington; and Mark Takano of California, according to people familiar with the discussion. The members expressed their views in a private virtual call on Sunday afternoon organized by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. That amounts to a total of nine House Democrats who have called for Biden to step aside.

The fallout from Biden’s June 27 showing against Trump continues to reverberate. The incumbent president has been defiant against calls for him to step aside, repeatedly saying that he has no plans to suspend his reelection campaign. But this week presents fresh challenges as Biden hosts members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Washington and members of Congress return to the Capitol after largely being away since the debate.

Most, if not all, of the participants in the call with Jeffries are Democrats not facing much danger of losing their November campaigns. Their posts atop congressional panels reflect, in part, their seniority and relative reelection security. Many have worked with Biden in some capacity over his nearly five decades in government.

Senior Democrats, including Richie Neal of Massachusetts and Don Beyer of Virginia, said in statements after the meeting that they want Biden to stay in the race.

A regularly scheduled meeting with all House Democrats set for Tuesday morning will be more telling of the sentiment across the caucus, and will include those members facing competitive reelection contests and who fear down-ballot repercussions from Biden voter fallout.

Panic is more pronounced in the House than in the Senate, because Democrats in that chamber had high hopes of taking the majority prior to the debate.

Jeffries’ spokesman declined to comment on the meeting, saying it was a private call.

Democrats Doubt

Several leading Democrats also spoke publicly Sunday in televised interviews: None directly called for Biden to leave the race, but they questioned whether he should go forward.

“The performance on the debate stage, I think, rightfully raised questions,” Representative Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “He should be mopping the floor with Donald Trump.”

“It should not be even close,” Schiff added. “And there’s only one reason it is close, and that’s the president’s age.”

A reported meeting that was being arranged for Monday by Senator Mark Warner of Virginia so Senate Democrats could discuss their support of Biden remaining on the presidential ticket isn’t going to occur, a person familiar with Warner’s thinking said Sunday.

The person said the meeting was never actually scheduled, but that the idea was floated to have a private, in-person conversation. Once the idea of this gathering was publicly reported, the meeting became impossible, the person said. Instead, Senate Democrats will talk Tuesday during their regular caucus.

The internal party struggle is playing out as Biden himself works to right his campaign, trying to convince voters at home and foreign leaders of his fitness to serve another four years.

Biden starting Tuesday is hosting a summit of NATO leaders and officials, some of whom expressed their worries about the president’s age and attentiveness privately during the Group of Seven meeting in Rome last month. The wars in Gaza and Ukraine heighten the pressure, given the US role in corralling allies.

Biden raised the stakes of the meeting in his ABC News interview on Friday, effectively saying that he should be judged on his ongoing efforts to reassert America’s place on the world stage.

Campaign Efforts

The president is also stepping up his campaign to show renewed vigor. He’s visited two battleground states in recent days, Wisconsin on Friday, and then made stops on Sunday in must-win Pennsylvania, the state where he was born but which a Bloomberg News/Morning Consult Poll shows him trailing by seven percentage points.

“If it wasn’t for Biden, Trump would be at the White House and he would be campaigning for his third term,” said Senator John Fetterman, the Pennsylvania Democrat who noted he also had a difficult debate after suffering a stroke — and went on to win his race. He expressed his strong support at a Biden event with campaign workers in Philadelphia.

“I know I don’t look like I’m 40 years old,” Biden joked at the Mount Airy Church of God in Christ, a Black congregation in Philadelphia. “All kidding aside, you know I’ve been doing this a long time, and honest to God, I’ve never been more optimistic about America’s future.”

He later traveled to an event in the Pennsylvania capital of Harrisburg.

Starting July 15, after the NATO summit, Biden will go to Austin to mark the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, then to Las Vegas to address the NAACP Convention and the UnidosUS Annual Conference, according to a White House official. The Las Vegas events target Black and Latino voters, two key constituencies.

Despite the defections, Tevi Troy, senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center and former senior White House official for the George W. Bush administration, said he questions “this premise of growing pressure because I’m not sure that’s the case.”

“The Biden people have set it up in such a way it’s very hard to get rid of him unless he chooses to. And he’s not gonna choose to, unless people he trusts tell him to step down. And the people he trusts are in positions that are dependent on him being there,” Troy said.

(Updates with Warner meeting cancellation starting in 13th paragraph.)

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