WASHINGTON – Minnesota U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips confirmed Sunday he is leaving his House leadership role after taking a lonely stand among elected Democrats with his public concerns over Democratic President Joe Biden's 2024 re-election run.
Phillips, who represents Minnesota's suburban Third District, said in a statement that his "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, who said earlier this summer he was worried that Democrats are "sleepwalking" into a repeat of 2016 when Republican Donald Trump won the White House, has called for Biden to "pass the torch." Yet Phillips has made clear he will support Biden if the 80-year-old once again becomes the Democratic nominee next year.
A spokesperson for House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries declined to comment about the Phillips news on Sunday.
Phillips said in a text message to the Star Tribune that leaving the House Democratic leadership was his own decision.
"Leader Jeffries and our entire leadership team never even so much [as] implied I should step down," Phillips said in one of several text messages to the Star Tribune. "But I know my conviction was beginning to cause discomfort in the caucus as evidenced by a colleague stating so at a caucus meeting this week. While political messaging and caucus messaging do not mix, I did not want to be a distraction to the latter."
Phillips said in another text message that although he is leaving the leadership post, he is not leaving Congress or the Democratic caucus.
The third-term congressman has faced pushback from Biden allies since he made his concerns about the president's candidacy increasingly clear earlier this summer.
Despite Phillips' drive to see viable alternatives in the Democratic presidential primaries, Biden at this point is facing only long-shot challengers. Leading Democrats have stuck with Biden given the fervent worry on the left about Trump potentially returning to the White House.
The 77-year-old Trump now is the GOP presidential primary front-runner even though he has been charged in several criminal cases this year, including one over the failed attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Phillips, 54, also has talked about potentially running in the 2024 Democratic primary himself.
"The only door I've shut is serving on the caucus leadership team," Phillips said in a text message Sunday afternoon.