While Biden campaigns in Pennsylvania, some Democratic leaders in the House say he should step aside

President Biden holds up two fists.
President Biden attends a church service at Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ on Sunday in Philadelphia.
(Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)
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President Biden urged his supporters to stay unified during a series of Sunday stops in critical Pennsylvania, even as some leading congressional Democrats privately suggested that it was time for him to abandon his reelection bid because of intensifying questions about whether he’s fit for another term.

Addressing a rousing church service in front of stained-glass windows bathed in sunshine at Philadelphia’s Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ, the 81-year-old Biden joked, “I know I look 40” but “I’ve been doing this a long time.”

“I, honest to God, have never been more optimistic about America’s future if we stick together,” Biden said, speaking from a prepared text but forgoing a teleprompter.


As Congress prepares to resume this week, House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries convened top committee lawmakers Sunday afternoon to assess their views. Several Democratic committee leaders, including Reps. Jerrold Nadler of New York, Jim Himes of Connecticut and Mark Takano of Riverside, Calif., said privately that Biden should step aside, according to two people familiar with the meeting and granted anonymity to discuss it.

But other top Democrats, including members of the influential Congressional Black Caucus, argued just as forcefully that Biden remain the party’s choice. The conversation was wide ranging, with the committee leaders sharing various views on the situation, but there was no unanimity on what should be done, the people said.

One Democrat the president spoke to, Sen. Alex Padilla of California, said he and others are pushing the Biden campaign to “let Joe be Joe, get him out there.”

“I absolutely believe we can turn it around,” Padilla told the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, a person familiar with Sen. Mark R. Warner’s thinking said there will be no meeting on Monday to talk about Biden’s future, as had been previously discussed, and that those discussions will take place in Tuesday’s regular caucus luncheon with all Democratic senators. The person said a private meeting was no longer possible after it was made public that the Virginia Democrat was reaching out to senators about Biden, and that a variety of conversations among senators continue.

Five other, different Democratic lawmakers have already publicly called on Biden to abandon his reelection campaign ahead of November. Meeting this coming week in person means more chances for lawmakers to discuss concerns about Biden’s ability to withstand the remaining four months of the campaign — not to mention four more years in the White House — and true prospects of beating Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump.

The Democratic Party has not fallen in line behind President Biden, even after the post-debate events set up to reset his imperiled campaign.

July 6, 2024

Calls to bow out popped up from different directions.

Alan Clendenin, a Tampa, Fla., city councilman and member of the Democratic National Committee, said on Sunday, “I believe it is in the best interest of our country and the world that President Joe Biden step aside and allow Vice President Kamala Harris to carry forward his agenda as our Democratic nominee.”


And director Rob Reiner, who has helped organize Hollywood fundraisers for Biden in the past, posted on X, “It’s time for Joe Biden to step down.”

With the Democratic convention fast approaching, the short term is especially critical. Those who feel Biden is no longer up to the task are imploring Democrats to replace him at the top of the ticket before, they argue, it’s too late.

Since President Biden’s debate performance, Vice President Kamala Harris has received more attention than at any time since her early, rocky days as his No. 2.

July 3, 2024

Biden’s Friday interview with ABC has not convinced some who remain skeptical. That’s despite a weekend boost coming from other key Democrats who had raised questions but now have moved to support him, led by the former Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina.

Democratic fundraising bundler Barry Goodman, a Michigan attorney, said Sunday that he still backs Biden but, should he step aside, he’d back Harris. That’s notable since Goodman was also a finance co-chairman for both of the statewide campaigns of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has also been mentioned as a top-of-the-ticket alternative.

“We don’t have much time,” Goodman said. “I don’t think the president gets out. But if he does, I think it would be Kamala.”

Biden nonetheless found an exceedingly friendly audience at Mt. Airy, where Pastor Louis Felton likened the president to the biblical Joseph and his “coat of many colors.” In that story, Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt by his jealous brothers, only to eventually obtain a high place in the kingdom of the pharaoh and have his brothers beg him for assistance without initially recognizing him.


“Never count Joseph out,” Felton said. Then, referring to Democrats who have called on Biden to step aside, he added: “That’s what’s going on, Mr. President. People are jealous of you. Jealous of your stick-to-itiveness, jealous of your favor. Jealous of God’s hand upon your life.”

That came after Biden entered to applause and a cry of “Let him know we are with him!”

“There is no election we cannot win,” Felton told those assembled. “We are together because we love our president.”

He also called Biden “a fighter” and “winner” and led a prayer in which he said: “Our president gets discouraged. But today, through your holy spirit, renew his mind, renew his spirit, renew his body.”

The visit gave Biden a chance to energize Black voters, who are Democrats’ largest and most loyal bloc of support. It could also send a message to members of the Congressional Black Caucus, whose endorsement the president will need as he works to quell potential rebellion on Capitol Hill.

Jurors deliberated for 9½ hours over two days before convicting former President Trump of all 34 counts he faced in a hush-money scheme surrounding the 2016 election.

May 30, 2024

After the church service, Biden visited a campaign office in Philadelphia, where Sen. John Fetterman, a Pennsylvania Democrat who won a tough 2022 race while recovering from a stroke, offered a forceful endorsement of the president.

“There is only one guy that has ever beaten Trump,” Fetterman said. “And he is going to do it twice and put him down for good.”


Biden also had a scheduled rally later with union members in Harrisburg. Stepping off Air Force One there, the president was asked if the Democratic Party was behind him and emphatically responded, “Yes.” He was returning afterward to Washington, where leaders from NATO countries will gather for a three-day summit beginning Tuesday.

Despite the sentiments of the likes of Fetterman, though, others aren’t fully convinced.

Democratic Sen. Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut told CNN that Biden “needs to answer those questions that voters have” but added, “If he does that this week, I think he will be in a very good position and we can get back to what this campaign needs to be.”

Biden has rejected undergoing independent cognitive testing, arguing that the everyday rigors of the presidency were proof enough of his mental acuity. But California Democratic Rep. Adam B. Schiff told NBC on Sunday that he’d be “happy if both the president and Donald Trump took a cognitive test.”

Schiff added that the president opting to stay in the race “is going to come down to what Joe Biden thinks is best” and that he could “run hard” to beat Trump or “if his decision is to pass the torch, then the president should do everything in his power to make that other candidate successful.”

Schiff warned that Biden needs to consider how he risks dragging down Democrats down the ticket: “Look, there are concerns with the impact on down-ballot races if the president doesn’t do well.

“You can only run so far ahead of the president,” he said.

As some Democrats have done, Schiff also seized on Biden suggesting during the ABC interview that losing to Trump would be acceptable “as long as I give it my all.”


“This is not just about whether he gave it the best college try,” Schiff said, “but rather whether he made the right decision to run or to pass the torch.”

Associated Press writers Long reported from Philadelphia, Weissert from Washington. AP writers Zeke Miller in Washington, Michelle Price in New York, Meg Kinnard in Chapin, S.C., and Bill Barrow in New Orleans contributed to this report.