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House Leader Jeffries, Deluzio reaffirm Biden support after poor debate

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Rep. Chris Deluzio at Pittsburgh International Airport Monday.
Oliver Morrison
90.5 WESA News
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Rep. Chris Deluzio at Pittsburgh International Airport Monday.

National Democrats and pundits have bemoaned President Joe Biden’s performance in last week’s debate with Donald Trump, but House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and western Pennsylvania Congressman Chris Deluzio both offered strong support for a second Biden term during a visit to the Pittsburgh International Airport on Monday.

Jeffries said there has been no talk amongst Democratic leadership about Biden leaving the race.

“There have not been discussions among senior leadership about anything other than making sure we continue to articulate a compelling vision for the future to the American people related to the issues of importance around the economy,” he said. The party’s focus, he added, remained on “lowering costs, around growing the middle class and making sure everyone has access to the great American Dream.”

This was a much stronger statement than one Jeffries gave to the Associated Press last week.

“Until [Biden] articulates a way forward in terms of his vision for America at this moment, I’m going to reserve comment about anything relative to where we are at this moment, other than to say I stand behind the ticket,” he told AP the morning after the debate.

Deluzio also underlined his support for Biden Monday, contrasting Biden’s debate performance with that of former president Donald Trump. “As much as it was a tough night, I think I also heard Donald Trump lie probably 30 times,” he said. “I heard him say you won't commit to respecting the election results. I continue to think he's a significant threat to our freedom, to this democracy.”

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The two Democrats spoke after a tour of the Pittsburgh International Airport, which they said exemplified the kind of investment Biden’s administration has provided through several major pieces of legislation. The airport’s $1 billion modernization project, which the Biden Administration itself has touted in the past, has received more than $120 million in federal funding since 2022.

Deluzio said that Biden was “crisp” during a February visit to the area near the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment site. And he called on his Republican opponent this November, state Rep. Rob Mercuri, to say whether he was planning on endorsing Trump like Mercuri did in 2020.

“I’ve heard crickets out of him,” Deluzio said.

Trump’s performance at last week’s debate, which was replete with falsehoods and references to “Black jobs,” has also been widely criticized. Mercuri didn’t respond to a request for comment. But in a post-debate statement last week, Mercuri didn’t mention Biden’s age or debate performance, instead calling simply for a change in direction.

“I offer new leadership grounded in common-sense that puts partisan politics aside and does what I did throughout my time in the Army and in business – fight for what's right to move us forward on a secure and prosperous path,” the statement said.

By contrast, in Pennsylvania’s marquee U.S. Senate race, Republican Dave McCormick has been criticizing Democratic Sen. Bob Casey for continuing to support Biden, and not doing more to raise the issue of Biden’s age.

“Our troops deserve a commander-in-chief with strength and acuity to lead in a crisis,” McCormick said on social media Monday.

Jeffries also criticized a Supreme Court decision Monday that allows Trump some immunity for his actions as president, but said he would have to study the decision before deciding how Congressional Democrats should respond.

“We've got to make sure that people in powerful positions are also held to the standard that in America, no one is above the law,” he said. “And it appears that the Supreme Court has not done justice to that standard in this unfortunate decision.

Oliver Morrison is a general assignment reporter at WESA. He previously covered education, environment and health for PublicSource in Pittsburgh and, before that, breaking news and weekend features for the Wichita Eagle in Kansas.