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Even Centrists Are Questioning Biden. But the Squad Is Divided.

Progressives in Congress have been some of the most vocal critics of President Joe Biden’s handling of Israel’s war on Gaza. They have urged him to end U.S. military funding for Israel and called for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. But as questions mount over whether Biden should step down as the party’s presidential nominee and let another Democrat challenge former President Donald Trump, progressives have been anything but unified.

At least four members of the Squad have expressed support for Biden since the first presidential debate. Two have enthusiastically backed him, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., reiterated that Biden was the nominee and said questions to the contrary were “losing the plot.” Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., said she and Biden were facing the same fight against extremist Republicans. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., have also affirmed their support.

The boost from progressives comes even as former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Wednesday that Biden was running out of time to decide whether to stay in the race. 

It has left media outlets asking why the Squad among all Democrats is backing Biden “so forcefully”?

But not all progressives are lining up behind Biden. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., one of the most vocal members criticizing U.S. military support for the war on Gaza, has said she will not endorse the president for reelection. And last week, Rep. Summer Lee, D-Penn., said that if Biden decided to step down, she would support Vice President Kamala Harris as the party’s nominee.

Progressives in Washington insisted that members of the Squad and their staffs were not frustrated with each other over how each member approached questions about Biden. They explained the division as merely a difference in messaging between political allies. 

Two sources who work closely with Squad offices said progressive efforts to boost Biden had less to do with him as the presidential candidate and more to do with protecting their own political futures.

No progressive members have explicitly called on Biden to drop out of the race.

Shortly after the debate, observers criticized Squad members for not immediately joining calls from at least 10 Democrats in nine states, including a slew of moderates, for Biden to step down. Progressives waited to see how the fallout would play out after the debate and over the July 4 holiday weekend. 

There wasn’t a specific plan for how the Squad would respond, and there was no coordination with offices that wanted to stay silent, sources said. Some strategists questioned whether progressives calling on Biden to step down would have had the opposite effect and if it was more effective to have moderate Democrats make the case instead. But as members faced mounting questions from the media, different members took more deliberate stances in support of the president.

One progressive strategist who spoke with The Intercept on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely said there were pragmatic reasons for each member’s decision to speak out or keep quiet on Biden. “There is a divide between the most progressive members who feel like they need to show fealty for self-preservation or for future ambition and those who are willing to just hang back and not offer support because they don’t need anything,” said the strategist, who is in regular communication with Squad members’ staff. 

Several Squad members have so far managed to stay silent on the Biden question.

There wasn’t a specific plan for how the Squad would respond, and there was no coordination with offices that wanted to stay silent, sources said.

Rep. Greg Casar, D-Texas, has not weighed in on whether Biden should stay in the race. He is reportedly eyeing a run for chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus next year, which makes it less likely that he would take a vocal stance against Biden. Casar’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Rep. Delia Ramirez, who says she has been focused on making sure that former President Donald Trump doesn’t win reelection, is not taking a position on Biden’s campaign. “At the moment, Congresswoman Ramirez is not commenting on the issue,” communications director Jowen Ortiz Cintrón said in a statement to The Intercept. 

Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who lost his reelection last month, has not spoken out about Biden’s campaign. His office did not respond to a request for comment. 

The offices of Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley, Bush, and Jayapal did not respond to a request for comment. Tlaib’s office declined to comment. Lee’s office directed questions about her position to her full interview with WESA. 

Squad members had previously led a solid block of opposition to Biden’s funding for Israel’s war on Gaza. Those efforts have slowly given way to support for his campaign among some members as the presidential election looms nearer, leaving Tlaib as one of the lone voices withholding her endorsement over Biden’s support for Israel. Even before the debate, Omar reiterated her support for Biden despite his handling of Gaza. 

Sanders backed Biden in an interview over the weekend. On Monday, Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, and Pressley joined him. Ocasio-Cortez told reporters at the Capitol that she had spoken with Biden, that he was not leaving the race, and that she would continue to support him as the nominee. The same day, Omar reiterated her support for Biden and called him “the best president of my lifetime.” Pressley said Biden was the nominee, “and I think we’re losing the plot here.” 

On Tuesday, Bush compared her reelection fight to Biden’s and said the party should unite to defeat extremist Republicans. Bush’s office did not respond to a request for comment. 

Jayapal also expressed support for Biden but said she was “listening carefully” to members in a statement on Monday. Jayapal said she would continue working to ensure that Democrats defeated Trump in November. 

Jayapal’s statement avoided taking a definitive stance on Biden’s campaign and invited criticism that progressives have diluted what was once a strong opposition to Biden’s policy toward Israel. After Jayapal faced intense blowback for calling Israel a “racist state,” she has since affirmed her support of funding for Israel’s Iron Dome, along with Ocasio-Cortez, who has also been campaigning for Biden. 

The post Even Centrists Are Questioning Biden. But the Squad Is Divided. appeared first on The Intercept.

The post Even Centrists Are Questioning Biden. But the Squad Is Divided. first appeared on The News And Times.