Biden Critics On Capitol Hill Settle In For Potentially Long Fight Over Nomination

With President Joe Biden’s fitness to run for reelection up for debate, he’s set to have the most widely anticipated NATO press conference ever on Thursday evening.

But while the press conference has been seen as a capstone to a week of furious White House lobbying to shore up Biden’s support in the party and on Capitol Hill, it likely won’t end the discussion even if he does well.

Some congressional Democrats have remained cautious about defining any one event, or even a timeline, as the final word on the issue.

“Look, it’s getting late. But it’s never too late to do the right thing,” Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) said when asked if there was a deadline for Democrats to replace Biden or unify behind him.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), the first Democrat to call for Biden to not run again, said “the sooner the better” but did not offer a timeline.

Politically, the longer the discussion trundles on, the more damaging it will be for Biden. It also cannot go on indefinitely, as congressional Democrats have to strategize for their own campaigns on how to handle the issue.

If Biden stays, some may want to run away from him and sell their candidacies as a needed bulwark against a resurgent Donald Trump, a strategy that worked well for Democrats in 2018. If Biden goes, they may choose a different tack, depending on the nominee.

Either way, there was little clarity among House Democrats on when the discussion should be wrapped up or what conditions Biden critics would demand be met for him to stay on.

“Unfortunately, I think there’s a public bloodletting right now that’s going to take a while. So I don’t know of a deadline,” said Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), a supporter of Biden.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has stepped carefully between the pro- and anti-Biden camps in her public statements, notably laid the groundwork for looking past the NATO summit ending this week to judge Biden.

“Let him deal with this NATO conference,” Pelosi said Wednesday on MSNBC. “I’ve said to everyone, let’s just hold off. Whatever you’re thinking, either tell somebody privately [or] you don’t have to put that out on the table until we see how we go this week.”

With Congress on recess next week as Republicans go to their national convention in Milwaukee, the public pressure on Biden may drop with lawmakers dispersed and in their home districts.

After that, one possible milestone would be the Democratic National Committee’s virtual roll call of delegates, a symbolic ceremony meant to formally certify Biden won enough delegates to take the nomination.

According to CNN, the date for the virtual roll call has yet to be determined, though the news outlet noted a set of Democratic Party talking points that said it would be held by Aug. 7.

Then, the next big dates on the calendar are Aug. 19-22, the dates for the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) appeared Thursday to be in no rush to shut down the discussion about Biden.

Asked how long he expected the process to take during his weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol, Jeffries noted the party has 213 House members and three congressional delegates, and “every single one of those voices is important.”

He said Democrats had used a process of “maximum education” when dealing with other issues that had come up as a caucus.

“That’s what we’ve done every single day of the 118th Congress, and that’s going to continue,” Jeffries said.

Even Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, whose membership has largely been supportive of Biden thus far, agreed more time was needed.

“I think we need just a little bit more time for all this to play out,” Jayapal said.

For Biden supporters like Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Mich.), the ongoing talk about the president is detracting from the unifying message of opposing the return of Trump and his policies.

In an apparent reference to George Clooney, who recently wrote an op-ed calling for Biden to step aside, Stevens said she heard about “Hollywood executives” talking and “getting a little squirmish.”

“I’m thinking, ‘You make movies,’” Stevens said. “Why would you switch out your main character before you go into production?”

Quigley said he saw the danger in the alternative: a fall campaign focused on Biden and his health.

“Then you’re not going to talk about Trump, and that’s the problem,” he said.