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Texas U.S. House member calls for Biden to withdraw amid debate fallout

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Texas U.S. House member calls for Biden to withdraw amid debate fallout

Jul 02, 2024 | 5:32 pm ET
By Ariana Figueroa
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Texas U.S. House member calls for Biden to withdraw amid debate fallout
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President Joe Biden speaks at the White House on May 31, 2024. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Texas U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett called for President Joe Biden to withdraw as the Democratic nominee Tuesday, becoming the first congressional Democrat to do so after Biden’s poor performance in last week’s presidential debate that has sent the party reeling four months before the November presidential election.

Biden has acknowledged a shaky debate performance but has maintained he is still fit for the job and remains a better alternative than his GOP rival, former President Donald Trump.

Doggett praised Biden’s record, but said the stakes of an election that could hand power back to Trump – newly empowered by a Supreme Court ruling Monday granting broad presidential immunity – meant Biden should step aside.

“Recognizing that, unlike Trump, President Biden’s first commitment has always been to our country, not himself, I am hopeful that he will make the painful and difficult decision to withdraw,” Doggett said in a statement.

Doggett said that during the 90-minute debate, Biden “failed to effectively defend his many accomplishments and expose Trump’s many lies.”

After the debate on CNN, Democrats have raised concerns about Biden’s performance, which included a raspy, low voice and confusing answers that often began one way before veering into a completely separate topic.

Biden, 81, addressed his performance at the debate during a campaign event the next day in North Carolina, where he acknowledged that he’s “not a young man,” but that he’s still up for four more years on the job because Trump, 78, is a “genuine threat to this nation.”

Leading Democrats have largely remained supportive of Biden in public.

“I’m with Joe Biden,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said at a press conference in Syracuse, New York, on Tuesday, according to a local report.

Speculation

But the discontent with the president’s debate performance has prompted speculation that Biden could withdraw before he is officially nominated next month.

Democratic Govs. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Andy Beshear of Kentucky have each sought to distance themselves from speculation they could be on a short list of replacements.

A co-chair of the Biden-Harris Campaign, Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, said Tuesday he would support Vice President Kamala Harris should Biden decide to step down.

“I will support her, if he were to step aside,” he said during a Tuesday interview with MSNBC.

Clyburn, a close ally of Biden’s who was instrumental in helping him secure the Democratic nomination in 2020, reiterated that he still supported Biden at the top of the ticket.

“We should do everything we can to bolster her, whether she’s in second place or at the top of the ticket,” he said of Harris.

President Joe Biden, right, and the Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump, participate in the CNN Presidential Debate at the CNN Studios on June 27, 2024 in Atlanta, Georgia.
President Joe Biden, right, and the Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump, participate in the CNN Presidential Debate at the CNN Studios on June 27, 2024 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

‘A bad night’

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that it’s a “legitimate question” on whether Biden is mentally fit for another four years.

“I think it’s a legitimate question to say, ‘is this an episode or is this a condition?’” Pelosi said during a Tuesday interview with MSNBC. She called on Biden to agree to interviews “with serious journalists.”

Biden is scheduled to be interviewed by ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Friday and will participate in a press conference during a NATO conference next week, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at Tuesday’s press briefing.

Jean-Pierre said Pelosi asked a fair question and that “we understand the concerns.”

“It was a bad night,” she said repeatedly over the course of the roughly hour-long briefing where virtually every question related to Biden’s fitness for office, debate performance or Doggett’s statement.

Jean-Pierre added that Biden had a cold, which is why his voice was hoarse during the debate.

She said Biden is scheduled to meet with Democratic congressional leaders and governors this week, but declined to give details about what would be discussed during those meetings.

More voices

Former U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio wrote an op-ed Tuesday, calling for Biden to withdraw and Harris to pick up the mantle.

Ryan ran against Biden and Harris for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

Moderate Maine Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden also published an op-ed Tuesday, writing that Biden’s performance at the debate wasn’t unexpected and that he’s fine with a second Trump presidency.

“Unlike Biden and many others, I refuse to participate in a campaign to scare voters with the idea that Trump will end our democratic system,” Golden said.

Moving forward

Despite the concerns, Democrats are still moving forward with plans to nominate Biden as their official presidential candidate before the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in late August.

Because of the deadline for candidates to get on Ohio’s ballot, the all-virtual roll call vote is supposed to take place before Aug. 7. The state requires candidates to be officially nominated at least 90 days before the November election.

Any final decisions about Biden’s candidacy would likely need to take place in July.

Business as usual

As the debate about Biden’s future continued Tuesday, the president stuck to his regular schedule.

Biden delivered remarks at the District of Columbia’s Emergency Operations Center on his administration’s efforts to address extreme weather.

The president noted the Department of Labor’s new rule aimed to protect workers from heat-related illnesses, as well as $1 billion in Federal Emergency Management Agency funding for projects to mitigate effects of flooding and other extreme weather.

Biden announced that he will hold the first ever White House Summit on Extreme Heat to bring together state, local and tribal leaders to develop solutions and protections, as well as the launch of a new government website showing in real-time the communities that face dangerous heat conditions.

“We want the American people to know help is here and how to get that help,” Biden said.

He didn’t answer a reporter’s question about Doggett’s statement calling for him to withdraw, according to White House pool reports.

Lia Chien contributed to this report.