NATIONAL NEWS

Biden’s support on Capitol Hill hangs in the balance as Democrats meet in private

Jul 9, 2024, 10:40 AM | Updated: 10:54 pm

President Joe Biden attends a church service at Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ, Sunday, July 7, 2...

President Joe Biden attends a church service at Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ, Sunday, July 7, 2024, in Philadelphia (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON (AP) —

Democrats on Capitol Hill met privately Tuesday at a crucial moment for President Joe Biden and their party, with tensions running high over the extraordinary question of whether to keep up support or urge him to step aside in light of health concerns.

Democratic House members met at party headquarters – no cellphones, no leaks — for what party leaders billed as just a “family” discussion. But one Democrat in the room said the mood was “dour” as congressmen discussed their party leader, who emphatically refuses to bow out and implored them in a Donald Trump.

Emerging from the closed-door meeting, Biden’s supporters were the most vocal, and one key Democrat reversed course to support the president. But as Senate Democrats prepared to meet next, Biden’s political future was the remarkable matter in question.

“He said he’s going to remain in, he’s our candidate, and we’re going to support him,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, who over the weekend was among those privately saying Biden needed to step aside.

But dissent runs strong among many Democrats who worry that not only is the presidency in jeopardy but also their own down-ballot races for control of the House and Senate.

Rep. Steven Cohen, D-Tenn., was asked if Democrats were on the same page after the nearly two-hour session and responded, “We are not even in the same book.”

“He just has to step down because he can’t win,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill.

Quigley said, “The fighting spirit and pride and courage that served the country so well four years ago, that helped Joe Biden win, will bring the ticket down this time.”

It’s 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.

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

Democrats also worry that Biden can’t be replaced because he’s so dug in and because of potential legal issues surrounding replacing a candidate so close to the election.

Republicans face their own history-making political situation, poised to nominate a former president who is the first ever to be convicted of a felony — in a hush money case — and who faces federal criminal indictments, including the effort to overturn the 2020 election he lost to Biden.

Senate Democrats, too, were meeting Tuesday as leaders, including Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, say Biden needs to show Americans he can capably run for reelection at this critical moment for the country.

While at least six House Democrats have publicly called on Biden to end his candidacy, Senate Democrats have held their concerns closer to the vest. No Senate Democrat has publicly called for Biden to step side.

After a slow initial response to Biden’s dismal debate, the White House and campaign team are working more furiously now to end the drama in part by gathering the president’s most loyal supporters to speak out.

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 and Congressional Hispanic Caucus, whose leaders have said publicly they are sticking with the president.

And other lawmakers, including Rep, Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the entire party caucus is united behind Biden as their nominee.

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Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

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Biden’s support on Capitol Hill hangs in the balance as Democrats meet in private