2024 Elections: Biden Tells Hill Democrats He ‘Refuses’ to Step Aside

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Monday resisted calls to drop his reelection bid and called for an end to the intraparty drama that has torn Democrats apart since he took office. dismal debate performance last month, when key lawmakers voiced support for his continuation in the 2024 presidential race.

As worried Democrats in Congress returned to Washington, wondering whether to revive his campaign or oust him, Biden sent them an open letter letter to silence their skepticism about his fitness to lead the country for another four years. He insisted he would not quit the race and stressed that the party has “one job”: defeating presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in November.

On Monday night, there was a sudden wave of public support from Democrats — or at least some tempering of criticism — as Biden’s allies appeared to try to drown out the public and private voices calling for him to step aside.

Biden wrote in the two-page letter that “the question of how to proceed has been widely debated for more than a week now. And it is time for it to stop.”

“We have 42 days until the Democratic Convention and 119 days until the general election,” Biden said in the letter distributed by his reelection campaign. “Any lapse in resolve or lack of clarity about the task ahead only helps Trump and hurts us. It is time to come together, move forward as a united party, and defeat Donald Trump.”

What You Need to Know About the 2024 Elections

Biden followed up the letter with a phone interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show, in which he insisted that “average Democrats” want him to stay in the race and said he was frustrated by calls from party officials to step aside.

“These are big names, but I don’t care what those big names think,” Biden said.

He threw down the gauntlet to his critics, saying that if they were serious, they should “run for president, challenge me at the convention” or stand with him against Trump. Biden later joined a call with members of his national finance committee, while first lady Jill Biden campaigned for her husband in a three-state campaign that focused on veteran and military family involvement.

“Despite all the talk about this race, Joe has made it clear that he’s going to go all the way,” she told a military audience in Wilmington, North Carolina. “That’s the decision he’s made, and just as he’s always supported my career, I’m going to go all the way.”

Democratic voters are divided over whether Biden should remain the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee or whether another Democratic candidate should emerge. according to a New York Times/Siena College poll.

On Capitol Hill, more prominent voices stood behind Biden, including House Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who was unwilling to push the president aside, saying the threat of a second Trump presidency remained too high. Still, one of the most threatened Democrats this election cycle, Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, said in a statement: “President Biden must prove to the American people — including me — that he is up to the job for four more years.”

But Biden’s letter infuriated some House Democrats who want to hear directly from Biden himself, according to a House aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the situation. Lawmakers were particularly angry that they were being portrayed as out of touch with voters, given that representatives are primarily listening to voters back home in their districts.

Biden planned to meet virtually on Monday with the Congressional Black Caucus — one of his staunchest blocs of supporters in Congress. Biden is also expected to meet with members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus this week, Jayapal said.

Meanwhile, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden had faced some serious problems. three neurological examinations while at the White House as part of his annual medical exams — and no more — and said the president has not been diagnosed with or treated for Parkinson’s disease.

It’s an uncertain and highly volatile moment for the president’s party. Democrats who have worked with Biden for years — if not decades — and cherished his life’s work on policy priorities are now asking uncomfortable questions about his political future. And it’s happening as Biden hosts world leaders for the NATO summit this week in Washington.

The drama unfolds with just a month to go until the Democratic National Convention and just a week before Republicans gather in Milwaukee to Re-elect Trump as their presidential pick. Many Democrats argue that the focus should not be on Biden, but on the former president’s conviction for a crime in the hush-money case and the ongoing federal charges in his attempt to overturn the 2020 elections.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., part of a new generation of progressive lawmakers, said she supported Biden and expressed concern that Democrats were taking their eyes off defeating Trump. “We’re losing the plot here,” she said.

Another prominent voice in the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Maxine Waters of California, said those opposing Biden “can speak for themselves or whatever they want to do, but I know what I’m doing because I’m a big Biden supporter.”

And Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said: “I’m tired of all this speculation. I just want to focus on the fact that we have to defeat Trump.”

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who has publicly backed Biden even as he weighed how to address the concerns of many in his conference, gave “the same answer” Monday after an evening meeting at the Capitol when asked whether he supported Biden.

At the same time, other Democrats in the House nearly ran from questions. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., told reporters as she left a leadership meeting that she was going to another meeting about the Great Lakes, and a group of House Democrats, including Reps. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia and Lauren Underwood of Illinois, changed the subject and refused to answer questions as they ducked into an elevator.

Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, publicly called for Biden to resign on Monday, saying it would be “a mistake” for Biden to continue his campaign. “I am calling on President Biden to resign,” Smith said on social media.

Biden’s allies said they expected the president to engage more directly with lawmakers — such as the CBC’s virtual meeting — as he races to shore up his candidacy. During a call with campaign leaders Saturday, Biden repeatedly asked them who else needed to hear from him, who else he needed to talk to and who had unanswered questions or concerns, said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.

“He’s there to do his job as a candidate and his job as president,” Coons said.

Rep. Annie Kuster of New Hampshire, chair of the New Democratic Coalition, has asked House leadership to invite Biden to address the entire Democratic caucus.

If the president wants to stay in the race, “help us answer questions from our voters,” she said. “And it’s so much easier to say, ‘I was with him.’”

Rep. Nanette Barragan of California, the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who supports Biden and recently campaigned with the first lady in Pennsylvania, said Biden “should be talking to as many members as possible.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer declined to answer questions about Biden’s re-election when he arrived at the Capitol on Monday, but he told reporters: “As I’ve said before, I’m for Joe.”

The Democratic Party’s number two in the Senate, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, was more cautious.

“I watched the debate, it raised a lot of questions,” Durbin said. “He’s trying to answer those questions. In some ways he’s been very effective, in other ways not so effective.”

One Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, had planned to call senators together on Monday to discuss Biden privately, but a person familiar with his thinking said those conversations will take place during Tuesday’s regular caucus lunch with all Democratic senators.

“With so much at stake in the upcoming election, it is time for conversations about the best path forward,” Warner said in a statement Monday.

Another Democrat, Sen. Alex Padilla of California, said it was “time to stop wringing our hands and start knocking on doors again.”

While some deep-pocketed donors are uneasy, strategists working on the House and Senate races said they have raised record amounts of fundraising because donors see Democrats in Congress as a “firewall” and the last line of defense against Trump.

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Associated Press journalists Farnoush Amiri, Kevin Freking, Darlene Superville and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

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