Several top House Democrats say Biden should step aside during leadership call

More than a handful of House Democratic ranking members told House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries in a Sunday call that President Joe Biden needs to step aside from the 2024 campaign, according to sources familiar with the call.

Jeffries held the call to take the temperature of ranking members after Biden’s dismal debate performance last month. The call, held before lawmakers return to Washington this week, was filled with deep concern about potential damage to the Democratic ticket and how it imperils the party’s chances to win back the House majority.

Jeffries did not share with his colleagues where he stands on the question of whether Biden should continue running for reelection, a source who was on the call told CNN.

The number of lawmakers who explicitly said Biden should not be the Democratic nominee was greater than the number who spoke up for him to stay, according to one of the sources. Among those who opposed Biden as the nominee were Reps. Mark Takano, Adam Smith, Jim Himes, Joe Morelle, Jerry Nadler and Susan Wild, according to three sources.

Five lawmakers have publicly called for Biden to withdraw from the presidential race: Reps. Lloyd Doggett, Seth Moulton, Raúl Grijalva, Angie Craig and Mike Quigley.

Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters and Bobby Scott spoke in support of Biden, according to one of the sources.

One of the concerns expressed during the nearly two-hour call was that Democrats will lose their chance at the House majority if Biden is the candidate, one of the sources said, adding that it was generally acknowledged the nominee should be Vice President Kamala Harris.

“It was pretty brutal,” a senior Democratic aide told CNN, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversation among House leaders.

Though not present on the call, lawmakers from the Congressional Black Caucus, including Rep. Joyce Beatty of Ohio and Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida, were quick to defend Biden from their colleagues calling on the president to step aside.

Beatty, former chair of the CBC, said that Democrats “shouldn’t be going rogue against our own president” and that Black voters are loyal and will continue to support Biden.

“Any ‘leader’ calling for President Biden to drop out needs to get their priorities straight and stop undermining this incredible actual leader who has delivered real results for our country,” Wilson said in a statement.

No decisions about demands for a White House meeting or sending a letter to Biden are expected to be made before the full Democratic caucus meets Tuesday, aides said, but Jeffries has made clear he will allow members to speak their minds and make their own judgments.

One senior House Democrat said they have been on calls and group chats with dozens of their colleagues where the consensus is that Biden needs to step aside. The member said the caucus is trying to “find the best way to move forward” while still giving the president the respect they believe he deserves for his storied career.

It is the view of the senior House Democrat and another member that Tuesday — the day of the planned caucus meeting — will be the most consequential day for the president this week.

One of the members told CNN they anticipate that is the day when the dam will break.

Many Democrats concerned about Biden’s viability as a candidate following his poor debate performance are waiting for Jeffries to take a public position.

So far, the leader has been in a purposeful listening mode — as one person told CNN last week, Jeffries has “assiduously” avoided sharing his own judgment on the matter as he continues to survey his own caucus.

Biden, meanwhile, was busy on the campaign trail in battleground Pennsylvania, speaking earlier in the day at a predominantly Black church in Philadelphia before making a surprise stop at a local campaign office — amping up the unscripted and off-the-cuff events his allies have encouraged him to take on. He then made his way to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he showed off his support from state Democrats Sen. John Fetterman, Rep. Madeleine Dean and Lt. Gov. Austin Davis at a campaign event.

It was between those trips on Sunday that Biden answered with a resounding “yes” when press asked whether the Democratic Party was still behind him.

This story has been updated with new reporting.

CNN’s Jack Forrest, Eva McKend, Edward-Isaac Dovere, Aileen Graef and Samantha Waldenberg contributed to this report.

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