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Biden Fails to Stop a Growing Democratic Rebellion

Biden visited Michigan on Friday.
By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Friday, July 12, 2024

Happy Friday! On this date in 1909, Congress passed the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, allowing for a federal income tax. The amendment was submitted to the states and was ratified on February 3, 1913. And on the same date in 1979, the Chicago White Sox held its ill-fated "Disco Demolition Night" promotion, which resulted in an on-field riot and forced the Sox to forfeit a game. We’re also marking one more anniversary, which you can read more about below.

Biden Fails to Stop a Growing Democratic Rebellion

A make-or-break press conference Thursday evening ended up neither making nor breaking President Joe Biden and his hold on the Democratic nomination to run against former President Donald Trump this fall. Instead, Biden’s performance produced a mix of reactions from supporters and critics, providing just enough to sustain each group without appearing to change many minds on whether the president should continue to lead his party in the election in November.

Biden began his question-and-answer session with a stumble as he referred to "Vice President Trump" instead of his actual VP, Kamala Harris, but he reassured his supporters as the press conference wore on by discussing foreign affairs with some degree of depth and authority while defending his decision to remain at the top of the Democratic ticket with some vigor.

Still, he struggled to complete his thoughts at times, prompting critics to renew their calls for Biden to step aside amid concerns that at age 81 he no longer has the physical stamina and clarity of mind he needs to beat Trump and hold office for another four years.

In the hours after the press conference, a handful of Democratic lawmakers added their names to the list of those who are calling for Biden to end his quest for a second term. At least 18 Democrats in the House have now done so, along with one Democrat in the Senate — a minority for sure, but a minority that is growing day by day. A larger group has reportedly expressed concerns about Biden’s viability but has refrained from speaking publicly.

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries sent a letter to colleagues Friday saying he had met with Biden Thursday night to discuss the situation. "In my conversation with President Biden, I directly expressed the full breadth of insight, heartfelt perspectives, and conclusions about the path forward that the Caucus has shared in our recent time together," he wrote.

Jeffries did not say that what conclusions had been made, nor did he offer a clear endorsement of the president, and he is reportedly holding "listening sessions" as he continues to mull the best path forward for himself and his caucus.

Late Friday, Politico reported that 24 former Democratic lawmakers had sent a letter to Biden asking him to allow the party to choose a new candidate at its convention next month in Chicago. Thanking Biden for his "integrity, energy and vision," the authors said his physical decline made it difficult for Americans to support him for a second term. "This leads us to a regretful conclusion," the authors wrote. "President Biden would best serve the nation he loves by releasing the convention delegates who are pledged to nominate him for a second term. His decision to do so would mean an open convention in August."

Supporters push ahead: As Biden continues to face pressure, his supporters are rallying behind him. Ron Klain, Biden’s former chief of staff, appeared on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" Friday, arguing that Democrats need to renew their support for Biden following what he said was a strong performance at the press conference. "It’s time for Democrats to stop agonizing and start mobilizing," Klain said as he laid out the case for sticking with Biden. "We’re on the verge of the Republican Convention. It’s a time for us to come together as a party, unite behind our nominee and proceed to, you know, get ready for the fall election."

Klain cited a new NPR/PBS News/Marist poll conducted July 9-10 that shows Biden leading Trump by 2 points nationally, 50% to 48%, with the results amounting to a statistical tie. The slim advantage disappears, however, once a third-party candidate is included. In recent weeks, most polls have given Trump a slight advantage in the race.

Mixed signals: One clear result from the poll should give Biden and his supporters pause: A clear majority don’t think Biden has the mental fitness to serve as president, with 64% of respondents choosing that option, compared to 35% who said he does.

In Biden’s favor, however, 68% of respondents said it’s more of a problem to have a president who doesn’t tell the truth than to have a president who is too old – a split that should favor Biden over Trump, who most respondents said lacked the necessary character to be president.

Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, told NPR that the presidential race is loaded with negative factors. "This is an unpleasant rematch with two unpopular people, but Biden gets points for honesty and character," he said. "As a result, there’s a lot of canceling out."

One decidedly unmixed signal, however, is being sent by some major Democratic donors. The New York Times reports that a number of wealthy donors are withholding $90 million from Future Forward, the largest pro-Biden super PAC, in protest of Biden’s refusal to step aside following his disastrous performance in the debate with Trump two weeks ago. The money is expected to start flowing again once the "uncertainty" around the nomination is resolved — presumably with someone other than Biden atop the ticket.

The bottom line: Biden is pushing ahead, despite calls to step aside, with a rally scheduled this evening in Michigan. But the next few days could prove critical, as Chuck Todd of NBC News noted Friday. "If they’re going to make a move against Biden though, they’ve got to do it this weekend," he told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. "They can’t keep dragging this out. They can’t keep waiting for another moment, another excuse."

House Republicans Fail to Pass One of Their Spending Bills

House Republican leaders’ aggressive drive to pass all 12 annual spending bills by the end of the month hit an unexpected pothole Thursday as the bill funding the legislative branch was defeated in a 205-213 floor vote. Ten Republicans joined all but three Democrats in opposing the bill, which is the smallest of the annual appropriations measures, providing just over $7 billion for Congress and its activities.

The House GOP’s bill proposed to deliver a nearly 6% funding bump over 2024 levels for the House, Congressional Budget Office, Government Accountability Office and other parts of the legislative branch.

"Senior Republican appropriators were shocked by the failed vote," Politico says, "with House Appropriations Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) calling it ‘inexplicable,’ adding that he had not heard significant concerns from members."

The Republicans who voted against the bill were Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Tim Burchett of Tennessee, Andrew Clyde of Georgia, Eli Crane or Arizona, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Bob Good of Virginia, Debbie Lesko of Arizona, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, Matt Rosendale of Montana and Keith Self of Texas.

Why it matters: "The failure is an ominous sign for Republicans’ push to pass the rest of their fiscal 2025 spending bills on the floor before August recess, with seven bills — most of which are far more politically divisive — tentatively slated for floor action during the last two weeks of July," Politico’s Caitlin Emma and Jennifer Scholtes write.

Number of the Day: More Than 70%

At a recent meeting with Republican lawmakers in Washington, D.C., former President Donald Trump reportedly floated the idea of replacing the income tax with higher tariffs. Experts scoffed at — or just ridiculed — the proposal.

To explain why it’s a terrible idea, the White House Council of Economic Advisers says in a blog post today that it is "mathematically unlikely" that tariffs could ever replace the revenue from individual income taxes — and that an across the board tariff as high as 70% might not even accomplish that goal, even as it would hurt the economy and invite retaliatory tariffs that undercut U.S. exports. The cost of offsetting government subsidies for affected businesses and changing consumer behavior brought about by new tariffs would decrease the government's revenue. "As a result, across-the-board tariff rates would likely need to be much larger than 70 percent to raise tax revenue that is equivalent to the individual income tax," the White House economists conclude. In other words: It just wouldn’t work.

The Law That Changed the Federal Budget Process and Created the CBO Turns 50

On this date in 1974, President Richard Nixon signed into law a bill that created the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, established the House and Senate Budget Committees, set up an annual budget process with specific deadlines, changed the federal government’s fiscal year to start on October 1 rather than July 1 and pushed back against a presidential grab for more power over the government purse.

The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 was the result of long-running conflict between presidents and Congress over the federal budget, which reached a high point under Nixon, who attempted to withhold funding that congressional appropriators had provided for programs he opposed via a process called impoundment. The fight that ensued led lawmakers to exert their own authority over federal spending — and clamp down on what they saw as abuse of power by Nixon — by passing the new law, which required that the president get congressional approval to rescind specific spending programs.

As the Congressional Budget Office explains: "That act reasserted the Congress’s constitutional control over the budget by establishing new procedures for controlling impoundments and by instituting a formal process through which the Congress could develop, coordinate, and enforce its own budgetary priorities independently of the President."

CBO started operating in February 1975 under its first director, Alice Rivlin.

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