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Joe Biden in trouble

Biden on the brink

There is no oxygen for any topic in Washington except for President Joe Biden’s political future.

House and Senate Democrats are being continually barraged with questions over whether the president should stay on the ballot, is fit to serve or can beat former President Donald Trump in November. The vast majority of Democrats we’ve spoken to would like him to step aside. And Democrats complain bitterly that the White House isn’t giving them any reason to be comfortable with Biden’s political standing.

Today will be another massive moment for Biden and his allies-turned-critics on the Hill.

First, a trio of the president’s closest confidants will have a lunchtime meeting with Senate Democrats at the DSCC. This meeting comes at the invitation of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has said precious little publicly about Biden’s disastrous debate performance and his plummeting political fortunes. More on that below.

Later, Biden will hold a 5:30 p.m. press conference as this week’s NATO summit comes to a close.

The Senate meeting: White House advisers Steve Ricchetti and Mike Donilon, along with Biden campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon, will walk into a roomful of Senate Democrats who are angry, nervous and downright dejected over Biden’s viability in an election that’s less than four months away.

Some Democratic senators questioned why the gathering would feature Biden’s advisers — who have come under fire from Democrats over their handling of the post-debate uproar — rather than Biden himself.

One of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats, Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.), said he won’t be at the meeting because of “a conflict.” Tester said earlier this week that Biden “needs to prove to the American people, and me,” that he’s up for the job for another four years.

And Wednesday night, Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) became the first Senate Democrat to openly call on Biden to step aside.

“For the good of the country, I’m calling on President Biden to withdraw from the race,” Welch wrote in a Washington Post op-ed. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) has said publicly that he doesn’t think Biden can win in November, but Welch’s comments are the first to cross the “Biden should withdraw” threshold.

A variety of Senate Democrats, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), have publicly questioned the president’s theory of the case in seeking another term.

The House Democratic Caucus, meanwhile, is in turmoil over Biden. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) joined the growing list of House Democrats who want to see Biden give up his reelection effort:

CNN’s Haley Talbot has a nifty spreadsheet detailing the Biden dissenters.

The NATO dynamics: The slow roll of public statements from Hill Democrats who are either calling on Biden to step aside or expressing grave concern about his ability to win has continued all week.

Democratic lawmakers and aides fear this trickle could turn into a flood once the NATO summit is over. Biden’s solo news conference afterward will be heavily scrutinized. Biden rarely gives news conferences anymore and usually does so with a visiting foreign leader, which is a different dynamic.

There’s also a sense among Hill Democrats that the end of the NATO gathering — which features Biden at every turn — will provide even more room to focus on the president’s own crisis. With the array of foreign leaders gone, rank-and-file lawmakers will feel free to tee off on Biden, party leaders fear.

The donor question: Biden’s problems inside the party extend well beyond Capitol Hill, of course.

Axios reported Wednesday night that Schumer “is privately signaling to donors that he’s open to a Democratic presidential ticket that isn’t led” by Biden, according to several sources.

Schumer issued a statement saying he still backs Biden. But we’ll note that Schumer didn’t deny the Axios story, either.

Here’s Schumer:

Several sources we talked to note that most major Democratic donors want Biden to step aside in favor of Vice President Kamala Harris or someone else, and Schumer basically hasn’t pushed back on that.

A longtime Democratic donor who has been on one of those calls within the last week noted that Schumer “was very careful to not say what he personally wants to see happen with Biden.”

The donor said Schumer made the point that their goal must be to defeat Trump at all costs. The donor added this could be interpreted as Schumer suggesting he’s comfortable with dumping Biden from the ticket if that means defeating Trump.

Also: The House will vote today on holding Attorney General Merrick Garland in inherent contempt for not turning over audio tapes of Special Counsel Robert Hur’s interview of Biden. Democrats tried to sideline the measure Wednesday but 10 of their members were absent.

— Andrew Desiderio, John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman

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