US Congress Democrats Still Divided over Defiant Biden’s Viability

 Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) answers reporters questions during a press conference following the weekly Senate caucus luncheons on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, July 9, 2024. (Reuters)
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) answers reporters questions during a press conference following the weekly Senate caucus luncheons on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, July 9, 2024. (Reuters)
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US Congress Democrats Still Divided over Defiant Biden’s Viability

 Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) answers reporters questions during a press conference following the weekly Senate caucus luncheons on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, July 9, 2024. (Reuters)
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) answers reporters questions during a press conference following the weekly Senate caucus luncheons on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, July 9, 2024. (Reuters)

Democrats in the US Congress remained deeply divided on Tuesday over whether to fall in line behind President Joe Biden's wounded reelection campaign or urge him to step aside because of persistent questions about his health and acuity.

The party's leaders in the US Senate and House, Chuck Schumer and Hakeem Jeffries, said little about hours of closed-door talks among Democratic lawmakers, who in any event lack the authority to push the 81-year-old president aside even if they agreed on a course of action.

Biden's halting June 27 debate performance against Republican Donald Trump and low public approval have raised fresh doubts among some Democrats about his ability to win the Nov. 5 election or to keep up with the demands of his grueling job for another 4-1/2 years.

Representative Mikie Sherrill became the seventh House Democrat to call on Biden publicly to drop out of the race, saying in a statement, "The stakes are too high – and the threat is too real – to stay silent."

Many more have expressed worries that Biden has not done enough in the ensuing days to convince voters that the debate was an aberration, rather than a true reflection of his abilities.

But the president continues to argue that he is best positioned to defeat former President Trump, 78, whom he casts as a singular threat to American democracy.

Senate Majority Leader Schumer brushed off questions about Biden's fitness, saying three times, "I'm with Joe," during a brief exchange with reporters after Senate Democrats met over lunch to discuss the president's campaign.

House Minority Leader Jeffries, whose members huddled behind closed doors for nearly two hours to debate the path forward, told reporters that the meeting gave Democrats the chance to speak in a "candid and comprehensive fashion" and that the discussions would continue throughout the week.

Asked whether House Democrats were on the same page, Representative Steve Cohen replied as he exited the meeting: "We're not even in the same book."

"While President Biden has made clear he feels he is the best candidate to win this election, nothing that has happened over the past twelve days suggests that voters see things the same way," Representative Lori Trahan said in a statement on Tuesday. She said constituents in her Massachusetts district had raised questions about Biden's ability to beat Trump.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll last week found that one in three registered Democratic voters believed that Biden should quit the race, with 59% saying he is too old to work in government.

However, the poll also found that none of his possible replacements fared better in a matchup against Trump. The poll showed Biden and Trump tied at 40% each.

If Trump wins the White House and Republicans win majorities in both chambers of Congress, he will face few obstacles in pursuit of major policy changes. Democrats already face an uphill battle to protect their 51-49 Senate majority, as they must defend multiple seats in Republican-leaning states.

Republicans hold a 220-213 majority in the House.

Trump holds a rally in Florida on Tuesday ahead of next week's Republican National Convention.

BIDEN'S HEALTH QUESTIONED

Biden was hosting a gathering of NATO leaders in Washington on Tuesday, giving him an opportunity to demonstrate he can still serve as a global leader, while Vice President Kamala Harris - seen as the most likely candidate to replace Biden if he were to stand down - was campaigning in Nevada, one of a handful of battleground states that may decide the election.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre faced another salvo of questions from reporters about Biden's health on Tuesday. In a statement, the White House physician said Biden was not being treated for any neurological condition and had received a clean bill of health at his most recent physical examination in February.

Biden has secured renewed support from several key constituencies, including from members of the Congressional Black Caucus after he spoke with them in a call on Monday. Black voters make up a crucial component of the party's base.

Some House Democrats compared Tuesday's discussion to a family argument. Representative Lou Correa urged colleagues to keep voicing their opinions, adding, "This is democracy."

Others expressed frustration that the party was focused on Biden's shortcomings rather than unifying against Trump, who falsely claims that his 2020 loss was the result of fraud and has not committed to accepting this year's results if he loses.

"I think the president has decided that the discussion has come to an end and that he is firm in his commitment to run," Representative Stephen Lynch said of Biden, adding that the dissidents "are gonna have to get on board."



Bangladesh Extends Curfew ahead of Court Hearing on Controversial Job Quotas

18 July 2024, Bangladesh, Dhaka: People and police clash during a protest against the government's job quota system. Photo: Rubel Karmaker/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
18 July 2024, Bangladesh, Dhaka: People and police clash during a protest against the government's job quota system. Photo: Rubel Karmaker/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
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Bangladesh Extends Curfew ahead of Court Hearing on Controversial Job Quotas

18 July 2024, Bangladesh, Dhaka: People and police clash during a protest against the government's job quota system. Photo: Rubel Karmaker/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
18 July 2024, Bangladesh, Dhaka: People and police clash during a protest against the government's job quota system. Photo: Rubel Karmaker/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa

Bangladesh extended a curfew on Sunday to control violent student-led protests that have killed at least 114 people, as authorities braced for a Supreme Court hearing later in the day on government job quotas that sparked the anger.
Soldiers have been on patrol on the streets of capital Dhaka, the center of the demonstrations that spiraled into clashes between protesters and security forces, Reuters said.
Internet and text message services in Bangladesh have been suspended since Thursday, cutting the nation off as police cracked down on protesters who defied a ban on public gatherings.
A curfew ordered late on Friday has been extended to 3 p.m. (0900 GMT) on Sunday, until after the Supreme Court hearing, and will continue for an "uncertain time" following a two-hour break for people to gather supplies, local media reported.
Universities and colleges have also been closed since Wednesday.
Nationwide unrest broke out following student anger against quotas for government jobs that included reserving 30% for the families of those who fought for independence from Pakistan.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government had scrapped the quota system in 2018, but a court reinstated it last month.
The Supreme Court suspended the decision after a government appeal and will hear the case on Sunday after agreeing to bring forward a hearing scheduled for Aug. 7.
The demonstrations - the biggest since Hasina was re-elected for a fourth successive term this year - have also been fueled by high unemployment among young people, who make up nearly a fifth of the population.
The US State Department on Saturday raised its travel advisory for Bangladesh to level four, urging American citizens to not travel to the South Asian country.