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Joe Biden

Biden’s hold on Democrats weakens

Big Punchbowl News news: Melanie Zanona is joining Punchbowl News as a senior congressional reporter. Hiring Mel was an absolute no-brainer. She’s one of the best journalists on Capitol Hill.

Mel understands the Hill’s personalities, power dynamics and politics. Plus, she’s a pro at breaking news. Many of us worked with Mel at Politico, we all competed against her at CNN and we couldn’t be more thrilled that she’ll be joining our team effective tomorrow.

Now let’s get into it. Congress is back, with both the House and Senate voting this evening. President Joe Biden will be at the NATO summit and an AFL-CIO meeting this week before heading to Michigan on Friday.

Biden’s support is eroding. The president’s backing among Hill Democrats — especially inside the House Democratic Caucus — is slipping. The questions at this point are whether that support completely collapses and, if it does, what Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries will do.

So far, the two top Democrats have said little. Schumer said he backs Biden, while Jeffries acknowledged Biden’s debate performance was bad but added “I believe a setback is nothing more than a setup for a comeback.”

There’s been some extravagant speculation that Schumer and Jeffries would somehow lead a high-level Democratic delegation to the White House and tell Biden he needs to step aside in favor of Vice President Kamala Harris. That’s all wildly premature. We’re nowhere near that yet.

What’s fair to say is there’s a split among Democrats — House vs. Senate, swing districts vs. safe seats, veteran lawmakers vs. their younger colleagues. None of this falls along typical fault lines, however, which makes the situation incredibly difficult to read. But it’s clear that Biden’s support among Hill Democrats is tenuous at best.

We scooped Sunday that four senior House Democrats — Reps. Jerry Nadler (N.Y.), Adam Smith (Wash.), Joe Morelle (N.Y.) and Mark Takano (Calif.) — told colleagues during a private leadership call that Biden should step aside as the party’s 2024 nominee.

Several other Democrats expressed strong doubts about whether Biden can win, although they stopped short of saying the president should leave the ticket. This includes Reps. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.). Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) — who just held a fundraiser with Biden — said this during the call:

Beyer also said Biden “has trouble putting two sentences together.” Beyer later issued a statement saying in part: “I support President Biden.”

Other House Democrats who have called on Biden to give up his reelection bid include Reps. Angie Craig (Minn.), Seth Moulton (Mass.), Lloyd Doggett (Texas), Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) and Mike Quigley (Ill.).

There’s also a significant number of House Democrats upset with the White House and Biden campaign for “gaslighting” them and trying to downplay the seriousness of the challenge Biden faces now, multiple lawmakers and aides said.

Meanwhile, a group of Senate Democrats who wanted to hold a private meeting on Biden’s candidacy as soon as Monday evening aren’t expected to get together after all, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The group, led by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), decided against moving forward after news of the effort leaked out. Democratic senators haven’t been nearly as vocal about Biden as their House counterparts, so stay tuned for more as they return to the Capitol today.

The Biden campaign noted that a number of Democrats backed Biden over the weekend, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), plus Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Nikema Williams (D-Ga.), Al Green (D-Texas), Haley Stevens (D-Mich.), Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) and Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.).

Biden also has made 20 calls to Hill Democrats since the debate, per a Biden campaign official.

The campaign has added more travel for the president in a bid to counter some of the internal party drama. Biden will head to Detroit on July 12 and Austin, Texas, on July 15, followed by Las Vegas for the NAACP and UnidosUS conference.

Other issues to watch this week: The Republican convention is next week in Milwaukee. There’s intense speculation about who former President Donald Trump is going to pick as his running mate. Republican Sens. J.D. Vance (Ohio) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) are among the leading contenders.

The House is scheduled to vote on the SAFE Act, a measure by Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) to require proof of U.S. citizenship for voters.

And Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) says she’ll bring up her inherent contempt resolution against Attorney General Merrick Garland for refusing to turn over the audiotapes of Special Counsel Robert Hur’s interviews with Biden. Luna is proposing to fine Garland personally $10,000 each day he doesn’t turn over the audiotapes. There are huge problems here constitutionally, meaning this will end up in federal court if it passes.

— John Bresnahan, Jake Sherman, Andrew Desiderio and Heather Caygle

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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.