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Wed. Jul 17th, 2024

Nancy Pelosi Subtly Opens Door to Replacing Joe Biden

By meerna Jul11,2024
Nancy Pelosi Subtly Opens Door to Replacing Joe Biden

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi woke up Washington early Wednesday morning by deftly sidestepping a simple question during a morning television interview: Should President Biden seek reelection?

In a 10-minute appearance on “Morning Joe” at 7:40 a.m., Pelosi — who has maintained a decades-long relationship with the president and continues to be deeply respected by her colleagues — left marks the biggest political crisis the Democratic Party has faced in years.

“It’s up to the president to decide whether he’s going to run. We all encourage him to make that decision because time is running out,” the California Democrat said. “He’s loved, he’s respected, and people want him to make that decision.”

In those few sentences on the show, which Biden is known to watch, Pelosi did not directly call on Biden to step aside. But she significantly reframed the delicate but urgent conversation that has been taking place among Capitol Hill lawmakers, Democratic donors, party strategists and voters after Biden’s lackluster debate performance two weeks ago raised questions about whether he could defeat Donald Trump and serve another term as president.

In a letter to Hill Democrats this week, Biden insisted he was running for reelection. But Pelosi, with subtle precision on morning television, said the president had a “decision to make.” She was the most high-profile figure in the Democratic field to paint a picture of a president who is deeply considering whether to run, even as Biden and his camp say there are no other options on the table.

It left congressional Democrats wondering whether they will actually be able to influence Biden’s decision four months before November.

According to those who have known and observed Pelosi over the past several administrations, she does not operate in a vacuum and uses language with purpose. Her moment was significant, coming days after the president released his letter and a day before Biden’s high-stakes news conference, according to Democrats who have worked with and around the former speaker.

Pelosi, who remains in the House even after resigning as speaker, “is always very deliberate about what she says,” said the ranking Democrat in the House. said the assistant.

In the hours after her speech, a New York member from a competitive district — Rep. Pat Ryan (D) — said he could no longer support Biden, the 12th Democratic member of the House, who by the end of the day was urging the president to step down. New York Lt. Gov. and former Rep. Antonio Delgado said it was time for “a new leader.” Otherwise, the most vocal voice calling for Biden to drop out of the race on Wednesday was actor George Clooney. One Democratic senator — Rep. Peter Welch (Vt.) — became the first senator to publicly call for Biden to step down in an editorial for The Washington Post on Wednesday night.

“We cannot unsee President Biden’s disastrous debate performance. We cannot ignore or dismiss the legitimate questions that have arisen since that night,” Welch said.

Pelosi’s television interview came just minutes before a group of swing-district Democrats were set to hold their second meeting in as many days with House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) to discuss Biden’s candidacy. The most vulnerable members of the House have grown increasingly worried in recent days that Biden will be a drag on their race, as new public and campaign-internal polls paint a bleak electoral picture for Democrats, undermining their ability to retake the chamber. Democrats need to win just four seats to regain the House majority, but all of their most vulnerable members must win.

Pelosi is loyal to the House of Representatives and will act in the best interests of the chamber, two senior House Democratic aides noted.

Democratic congressmen have been privately wringing their hands over Biden’s performance in a debate two weeks ago, in which he at times seemed lost or unable to finish sentences. But many have been hesitant to publicly urge him to abandon the campaign, waiting, they say, for more polling data, the conclusion of the NATO summit in Washington this week and how Biden fares at a Thursday evening news conference.

Republican leaders — including Jeffries and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) — have said they support Biden but have said little more, despite widespread concern among them that the president could seriously harm their chances of regaining the House majority and holding the Senate in November.

“I agree with Nancy. She’s stating the obvious,” Welch said earlier Wednesday. “President Biden has made it clear that he’s fully engaged, but the evidence continues to come in that this is turning into an uphill battle.”

By Wednesday morning, Pelosi hadn’t said much either. But when she did, Washington took notice of the potential implications.

The former speaker is one of a small circle of Democratic power brokers who can effectively pressure the president, multiple current and former Hill aides say. One of the Democratic House chiefs of staff said the California Democrat — who is 84 and is set to resign as House leader in 2023 — “has the most influence” among party seniors who could ultimately deliver a grim message to a defiant Biden, given the pair’s decades-long relationship.

“There’s only one person who has the seriousness and courage to say anything to Biden, and that’s Pelosi,” said a former Hill aide who is close to the congressional leadership.

Pelosi’s comments were not coordinated with Jeffries, three senior Democratic aides said. Leadership remains in listening mode, those aides said, as the House Democratic caucus remains deeply divided over how to address Biden’s fitness for office.

Jeffries has offered little guidance to his members on how to approach the Biden issue. He has not privately told members whether to hold the line on the president, according to five people familiar with his deliberations, who — like some others interviewed for this article — spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations. Sensitive Democrats and other members who have spoken to Jeffries in recent days said they feel he understands their concerns.

In two separate meetings in the past 24 hours, Jeffries told members he would soon convey their deep concerns to the president, according to three people familiar with the remarks. It was unclear whether a phone call had yet been scheduled.

However, many colleagues said Jeffries was limited when many members of the Congressional Black Caucus endorsed Biden this week. Jeffries is a CBC member and unusually compliant with the group’s leaders. And there is doubt among leaders that the president would accept their advice if they shared concerns about the campaign. A senior House Democratic aide complained that it wasn’t even clear that any member of the House leadership could reach Biden if they tried.

But there is widespread confidence among congressional Democrats that Biden might listen to Pelosi.

“I will tell you, she is probably the most knowledgeable female politician walking the face of the planet,” said Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Tex.), who this week praised Biden for being one of the most effective presidents in U.S. history. “So I’ll leave it at that.”

Biden, 81, and Pelosi, 84, share the Catholic faith and have worked together on a wide range of domestic and foreign policy issues for more than three decades, including a 1994 crime bill that included a ban on assault weapons.

Biden’s last major legislative accomplishment as a senator, the passage of the Africa AIDS Relief Act in July 2008, was a signature issue that Pelosi shepherded through the House during her first term as speaker. As vice president, Biden was often tasked with selling compromises to Pelosi’s congressional Republicans, a move that left many Democrats with a sour taste in their mouths — but earned Pelosi’s respect.

As Democrats took full control of Washington in January 2021, Biden and Pelosi, along with Schumer, worked closely on an ambitious policy agenda that included the largest investment in climate change in history. Their partnership grew so strong that in late 2021 and into 2022, longtime diplomatic observers from Foggy Bottom to Rome noted Biden’s delay in nominating a U.S. ambassador to Italy. That prompted deep speculation that whenever she stepped down as speaker, the president wanted to send the Italian-American Catholic to Rome as a capstone.

She denied the rumors, and after deciding to leave her leadership position, Pelosi made the unusual decision to remain in the House of Representatives and return to the rank and file, albeit with the dignity and honorific title of “Speaker Emeritus.”

Until last week, perhaps no Democrat had defended Biden’s age and abilities more effectively than Pelosi, regularly turning any question on the subject into an attack on Trump and a forceful defense of Biden.

“Joe Biden has a vision. He has the knowledge. He’s a strategic thinker. He’s a very astute president in terms of his public presentation,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in February. “If he makes a slip of the tongue here and there, what’s the harm in that?”

Just five months ago, Pelosi staunchly defended Biden’s handling of issues in private, even as his public statements required some housekeeping. “I think his public presentation is fine,” she told Cooper. “I think you can see firsthand in the meetings that he’s in control.”

Liz Goodwin and Theodoric Meyer contributed to this report.

By meerna

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