Updated Oct 1, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Rep. Dean Phillips steps down from Dem leadership

Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) on Sept. 29. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) is stepping down from his role in House Democratic leadership after floating a primary challenge to President Biden.

What he’s saying: “My convictions relative to the 2024 presidential race are incongruent with the majority of my caucus, and I felt it appropriate to step aside from elected leadership,” Phillips, the co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, told Axios in a statement.

  • "I celebrate Leader Jeffries for his remarkable and principled leadership, and extend gratitude to my outstanding friends and colleagues for having created space and place for my perspectives," Phillips continued.
  • "I'll continue to abide by my convictions, place people over politics, and support our shared mission to deliver security, opportunity, and prosperity for all Americans. Onward!"

The backdrop: Phillips, a three-term moderate from the Minneapolis suburbs, began publicly floating a primary challenge against Biden in July and refused to rule out the prospect as recently as last week.

  • Phillips has pointed to Biden’s age as a serious liability for the president and pointed to polling that suggests many Democrats don’t want him to be the party’s nominee in 2024.
  • But Phillips has also said he is not “well-positioned” for a run and called for Democrats with a higher national profile to jump into the race against Biden.

What we’re hearing: Phillips’ stance on Biden’s reelection puts him at odds with many in the Democratic caucus and has been the source of internal criticism.

  • After House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) told his caucus to stay on message on the government spending fight during a closed-door meeting last week, Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Calif.) stood up and took aim at Phillips.
  • “There is someone in leadership who is not on message about our president,” Kamlager-Dove said to a round of applause, according to a House Democrat who was present at the meeting.

What's next: Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), a second-term member, is considering a run to replace Phillips at the DPCC, according to a source familiar with his thinking.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

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