Who Is Lloyd Doggett? Texas Democrat Calls for Biden to Exit Race - The World News

Who Is Lloyd Doggett? Texas Democrat Calls for Biden to Exit Race

Representative Lloyd Doggett, a little-known Texas progressive, on Tuesday became the first Democrat in Congress to call on President Biden to step aside as the party’s nominee after a halting debate performance that has raised major questions about his health, age and mental acuity.

In going public with his concerns, Mr. Doggett, who has represented his Austin-based district for close to 30 years, spoke aloud what most other Democrats have only dared to say in private since Thursday’s debate.

Mr. Doggett is a rank-and-file congressman with little national profile. But his public statement gave voice to a growing sense of doom and worry among Democrats about whether Mr. Biden can continue as the party’s nominee, and if by doing so he might cost the party not only the White House but also any chance of controlling Congress.

“President Biden saved our democracy by delivering us from Trump in 2020,” Mr. Doggett said in the statement. “He must not deliver us to Trump in 2024.”

In an interview on Tuesday afternoon, the congressman said he made the decision to break with his party and call for Mr. Biden to take himself out of the race after feeling “alarmed” as he watched the debate with his wife at their Washington home.

He was dismayed when Mr. Biden did not even try to debunk many of the falsehoods that former President Donald J. Trump put forward in his answers. He was disconcerted when the president seemed to lose his train of thought and trail off in discussing health care, ending an answer with the words, “we beat Medicare.” And “we were all troubled,” he said, by Mr. Biden’s lack of forceful answers on abortion and reproductive freedom.

The next morning, Mr. Doggett recounted speaking with “everyone I could find” in Democratic leadership and privately expressing strong feelings that the president should step aside.

His unease ballooned after he returned to his Texas district over the weekend, where he said the feedback was “10 to one in favor of the president withdrawing.” The Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday that “official” actions that Mr. Trump took while in office were immune from prosecution was, in Mr. Doggett’s mind, “the final straw.”

“It was obvious there would be no check on Trump whatsoever if he is president,” Mr. Doggett said in the interview. He feared a second Trump term would usher in a “much more authoritative government” — a risk he said the country could not afford.

“We need to go with our strongest candidate, and the public is saying that is not President Biden,” Mr. Doggett said. “I feel that way as well.”

Mr. Doggett’s call for Mr. Biden to withdraw was in some ways reminiscent of his early days in Congress, when he was a prominent voice for his party’s left flank.

His 1994 victory was a bright spot for Democrats in an election year in which Republicans retook control of the House for the first time in 40 years. Mr. Doggett also made a name for himself in the early 2000s as a vocal opponent of Congress’s decision to authorize the American invasion of Iraq. In 2015, he was one of the founders of the House Affordable Drug Pricing Task Force.

Yet multiple bouts of redistricting and the recent influx into Congress of a younger, louder and more diverse group of progressives have relegated Mr. Doggett to relative obscurity. He is the sole white male Democrat remaining in the Texas delegation.

Mr. Doggett’s stance on the presidential nominee differs sharply from that of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat and close ally of Mr. Doggett’s whom he supported for speaker in 2002 over a fellow Texan, former Representative Martin Frost.

In contrast to Mr. Doggett, Ms. Pelosi spent the weekend on national television in an attempt to shush doubters and insist the president’s debate performance was just an anomaly. After she said on Tuesday that there could be “legitimate” questions about whether last week was “an episode or is this a condition,” a spokesman later clarified that she had “full confidence” in the president and looked forward to attending his inauguration in January 2025.

Mr. Doggett does not believe that is a likely outcome. In his statement, he noted that his congressional district was once represented by Lyndon B. Johnson, who surprised Americans in 1968 with the announcement that he would not stand for re-election.

“Unlike Trump, Biden really does want to put the country first,” Mr. Doggett said in the interview. “He can put the country first by putting himself aside.”

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