Seventh House Democrat Rep. Mikie Sherrill says Biden should withdraw

WASHINGTON (AP) — The mood on Capitol Hill turned grimly uncertain Tuesday as Democrats wrestled over the presidential election. Joe Bidens re-election and the extraordinary question before them: Should they continue to support his candidacy or force the president to resign over concerns about his ability to lead them to victory?

House and Senate Democrats met privately with tensions running high. The conversation was “somber” and “sad” in the House, lawmakers said, as they discussed their party leader who emphatically refuses to step aside and begged them in a sharply worded letter to shift his attention to the threat posed by the Republican Donald TrumpIn the Senate, where Biden has had an illustrious career, they said even less.

Late in the day, a seventh Democrat in the House of Representatives, Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, publicly called on Biden not to seek re-election, saying that with Trump seeking a return to the White House, “the stakes are too high — and the threat too real — to remain silent.”

What could have been a moment for Democrats to rally around their president, who despite his poor performance in debates and public appearances remains the favorite for some, instead spiraled deeper into crisis over real fears that they could lose the White House and Congress and witness the rise of a second Trump term.

Earlier, New York House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said members had “an opportunity to express themselves in a candid and comprehensive manner” during a closed session and that discussions would continue.

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It’s a notable moment for the president and his party, as Democrats in Congress seriously question Biden’s position at the top of the ticket. weeks before the Democratic National Convention to nominate him for a second term.

Biden’s supporters have been the most vocal, and at least one key Democrat in the House of Representatives has reversed course and publicly endorsed the president. But there was no agreement in sight, and there is a strong undercurrent of discord. While Senate Democrats have remained publicly silent, political future was the notable issue in question.

Asked if there was consensus, Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, one of Biden’s closest supporters, said the “consensus is that Donald Trump is a threat and that’s where the focus needs to be.”

During Tuesday’s closed session of the House of Representatives, fears grew that Biden would remain in the race and that the election would then revolve around his age instead of Trump, according to one of those present at the meeting.

At least 20 Democratic lawmakers stood to speak during the nearly two-hour session, an existential moment for many of their country as Trump contemplates a second presidency.

Most of the speakers wanted Biden to end his candidacy, said another person who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the meeting.

Among them was Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, who leads a contingent of war veterans in the House of Representatives and is among the Democrats who have publicly called for Biden to step aside.

Still others have put aside their personal concerns to back Biden, for now. “He said he’s staying, he’s our nominee, and we’re going to support him,” Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, told CNN. Over the weekend, he was among those who privately said Biden should not run.

“I’m going to stick with Papa,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., saying his constituents understand what the country has been through during the COVID-19 pandemic and how Biden has navigated the crisis. “He was fit then and he’s fit now.”

Many Democrats worry that not only the presidency is at risk, but also their own elections for control of the House and Senate — and the party’s ability to stop Trump and conservatives. Project agenda 2025 with his plans to weaken the federal government.

“He should just resign because he can’t win,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill.

A Democratic lawmaker who asked not to be named said afterward that people love Biden, but there is a real sense of helplessness about the situation and the threat of consequences if Democrats lose the election. The lawmakers said the situation was “sad.”

After a closed-door Senate lunch meeting, most senators were reluctant to say they unequivocally support Biden or whether they want him to step aside.

“I think we have to do our best to defeat Trump and I’m very excited about it,” said Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.

While more than a handful of Democrats in the House of Representatives have now publicly called on Biden to end his candidacy, no Senate Democrat has publicly called for Biden to withdraw from the race.

The majority of Democratic senators who spoke at the lunch meeting expressed deep concerns about whether Biden can beat Trump in November, though they stopped short of saying he should drop out of the race, according to a person familiar with the conversation who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter. A handful of senators also defended Biden.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York reiterated: “I’ve said before, I stand with Joe.”

Some are turning more seriously to Vice President Kamala Harris as an alternative.

Rep. Jared Huffman of California, who leads the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives task force He said Democrats, who are fighting Project 2025, must confront Trump again and can win the election with Biden at the top of the ticket.

But he said that if Biden’s decision to stay on changes, “I don’t think it’s the end of the world.”

“I think we have an excellent successor in the vice president. She’s good and she’s ready to go.”

Huffman said that unlike their Republican counterparts in the House, Democrats “can have principled disagreements without fighting like ferrets in a phone booth.”

Republicans are facing their own historic political predicament as they are poised to nominate a former president who is the first person ever convicted of a felony — in a case involving cover-ups — and who faces federal criminal charges including the attempt to overturn the 2020 election he lost to Biden.

After initially being slow to respond to Biden’s dismal debate, the White House and campaign are now working more aggressively to put an end to the drama, including rallying the president’s most loyal supporters to speak out.

The president met virtually Monday night with the Congressional Black Caucus, whose members form the core of Biden’s coalition, thanking them for their support and assuring them that he would support them in a second term. He was also scheduled to meet with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, whose leadership, along with that of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, has said publicly that they will stand by the president.

Rep. Jasmine Crockett of Texas, a new Democrat, said the stakes were too high to turn her back on Biden at this point in the campaign, saying a second Trump presidency would be extremely damaging to Black Americans across the country.

“We are not willing to risk our freedoms for someone who feels good because another name is on the ballot,” she said.

Crockett, who campaigned with Biden, added: “That’s why I can feel so confident, because I’ve seen more than the 90 minutes that everyone is so concerned about.”

And Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., who months ago ended his hopeless Democratic presidential bid for 2024, was asked by reporters whether he felt vindicated by Democrats calling on Biden to step aside. “If this is vindication, vindication has never been more unsatisfying,” he said.


Associated Press editor Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

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