U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett doubles down on push for Biden to step aside

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett speaks at the Turn Up the Vote event in Austin, Texas Oct. 23, 2022. (Azul Sordo/The Texas Tribune, Azul Sordo/The Texas Tribune)

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WASHINGTON — Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, dug in his heels during a meeting of House Democrats on Tuesday morning, urging the party to rally around an alternative candidate to President Joe Biden.

Doggett, who was the first House Democrat to publicly call for Biden to step aside, told reporters as he walked out of the closed-door meeting that he made his case once again to his colleagues that Biden is too weak to defeat Donald Trump.

“The debate cannot be unseen,” Doggett said of the June 27 debate, where Biden was raspy and at times incoherent. “The president has been running behind. We needed a surge, we got a setback.”

Biden is scheduled to visit Doggett’s district on Monday, speaking at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin.

Doggett said Tuesday that he would support Biden in November if he stayed in the race. But Doggett said he had received a “tremendous outpouring” of support in his district after he initially called for Biden to step aside, and pledged to continue voicing his concerns.

“I share admiration for his work in office, but the dangers of a Trump presidency are so significant that we have to put forward our strongest candidate,” Doggett said, though he did not name a preferred alternative candidate.

Caucus leaders sought to prevent leaks of the discussion and did not allow representatives to have cellphones inside the room. Most representatives declined to comment as they exited the meeting.

The caucus meeting and Doggett’s latest comments come just one day after Biden sent a two-page letter to Democratic lawmakers insisting that he is staying in the race and that it’s time to move on.

“The question of how to move forward has been well-aired for over a week now. And it’s time for it to end. We have one job,” Biden said.

Four Texas Democrats have yet to say publicly whether they still support Biden as the party nominee: Rep. Henry Cuellar of Laredo, Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth, and Rep. Colin Allred of Dallas, who is running for Senate in November.

Veasey did break ranks with the Congressional Black Caucus, which has largely rallied around Biden, when he urged battleground Democrats to break with Joe Biden if it would help them win reelection.

“What I said this morning and expressed to my colleagues, particularly from members on the front line, is that I think they need to do whatever it is they need to do in order to come back and be reelected and so if they need to, you know, distance themselves, then that’s what they need to do,” Veasey told CNN on Tuesday.

Veasey, who holds a safe Democratic district, said he did make a case at the caucus meeting but did not say which position he took. He had warned fellow Democrats last week to be cautious and “chill a little bit.”

“Everyone had an opportunity to have their voices heard,” Veasey told reporters after the meeting on Tuesday. “I think that you’re going to continue to hear from a variety of people on how they feel about this.”

Castro stayed mum on Tuesday morning, though a campaign spokesperson said last week that Biden’s speech in North Carolina the day after the debate was a “much stronger reflection of the leader Americans have seen over the last three and a half years.”

Most other Democrats, meanwhile, have held the line for Biden. Rep. Veronica Escobar of El Paso, who is a Biden campaign co-chair, conceded last week that the debate wasn’t what she had hoped for but emphasized the party’s focus on defeating Trump. Houston-area Reps. Sheila Jackson, Sylvia Garcia, Al Green and Lizzie Fletcher have all made public comments supporting the president, as did Rep. Jasmine Crockett of Dallas, who said on MSNBC that “so long as the president says that he can do this job, then that is our ticket.” Rep. Greg Casar of Austin said on KVUE that he would “support the president, or if the president decides for someone else to be the nominee, I'll support them until victory in November.”

Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen, also expressing support for Biden, said on Tuesday that he believed the president could still win in November.

Asked if he thought Biden would stay in the race, Gonzalez said, “Time will tell.”

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