Democrats hold pivotal meetings on Biden, as divisions deepen after Trump debate

President Joe Biden returns to the White House, July 7, 2024.

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House Democrats convened at their national party headquarters in Washington on Tuesday for a pivotal closed-door meeting, as members weigh whether to continue backing President Joe Biden’s reelection bid or seek his withdrawal from the race.

Lawmakers had no access to their phones during the meeting, which marked the first time the full caucus has assembled since Biden’s disastrous debate against former President Donald Trump in June sparked a full-blown campaign crisis.

Many members refused to answer reporters’ questions as they trickled out of the building after the meeting Tuesday morning.

“I promised I wouldn’t talk at all about what was said,” Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., told NBC News as he departed.

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., told an Axios reporter that some members in the caucus meeting said that Biden should withdraw. A spokesman for Cohen did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request to confirm that comment.

Biden’s feeble, raspy showing in the debate set off panic among Democrats, prompting some top donors, pundits and allies to openly urge Biden, 81, to abandon his bid for another four years in office.

That growing chorus includes at least eight sitting House Democrats, according to NBC’s tally.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.J., who also called on Biden to drop out, said Tuesday that he now backs the incumbent.

“I’m fully supportive of him. I plan to campaign for him. And it’s essential that he wins,” Nadler said.

Few other House Democrats, and no Democratic senators, have so far been willing to join them in calling for a change at the top of the ticket — an immensely risky move less than four months out from Election Day.

Biden has rejected calls to step aside, saying he believes he is still the best person to compete against Trump in the presidential election. He has worked since the debate to shore up support from key blocs, including the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

“I’m standing with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and we’re going to continue to do the work that needs to get done,” Congressional Hispanic Caucus chair Nanette Barragan, D-Calif., said on MSNBC after the caucus meeting Tuesday morning.

Barragan described that meeting as a “family conversation to hear out our colleagues,” but added, “those are private conversations.

Democratic leaders have issued terse statements of support for the Biden-Harris ticket.

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“I made clear publicly the day after the debate that I support President Joe Biden and the Democratic ticket. My position has not changed,” House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York told reporters Monday evening.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has said he backs Biden.

Senate Democrats are set to hold a caucus lunch Tuesday afternoon.

Outside the Democratic National Committee building, a handful of protesters, clad in sunglasses and suits, held up all-caps signs asking, “Is Joe Biden fit for office?!”

The protesters said they were from the National Republican Campaign Committee, Politico reported.

This is developing news. Please check back for updates.

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