Jayapal on Dean Phillips: ‘I have no idea what he is running on’ that’s different from Biden

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Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) on Sunday said she has “no idea” how Rep. Dean Phillips’s (D-Minn.) newly announced presidential bid is different from President Biden’s campaign, reiterating her support for the incumbent.

“Listen, my colleague Dean Phillips — everyone’s got the right to run — but I’m sorry, I have no idea what he is running on that is different from what President Biden is running on,” Jayapal said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “He took the same bold stances that President Biden has taken in this country on domestic issues. And I really don’t see … what he is doing.”

“That’s not the point for me,” Jayapal added. “The point is, I want Presidnet Biden to be the next president. And he needs to call us to a higher moral place.”

Phillips announced last Thursday he would run for president against Biden in the Democratic primary after months of suggesting he would do so.

Phillips told CBS News’s Robert Costa he could “not sit still” in the wake of numbers showing “an emergency next November,” and he has repeatedly called for a competitive primary instead of Biden running unopposed for the nomination, a likely reference to recent polls that show Biden and Trump winning their prospective primaries. Biden’s approval numbers have also reached new lows in recent months.

Meanwhile, Jayapal said she has been “one of President Biden’s biggest supporters.”

“I have been proud to be a partner as he has been courageous and strong on the domestic front,” Jayapal said. “He has really called out the injustice for the average working Americans across this country.”

Jayapal joins the chorus of Democrats who have raised concerns over Phillips’s long-shot bid against Biden. Some Democrats have argued Phillips, a three-term House Democrat, has little chance of beating Biden in the primary with little name recognition to resonate with voters.

Others have argued Phillip’s bid increases the uncertainty in the race that also includes two other Democratic primary challenges and several independent candidates.

A source close to the Biden campaign told The Hill last week it greeted the news “with a shrug.”

Announcing his candidacy, Phillips noted he is “not running in opposition” of Biden, but rather to encourage passing the torch to a new generation of leaders.

Asked if Biden is going to be weakened by Phillips’s primary challenge, Jayapal said, “I feel like I need to say this … because what I think is that the president needs to be just as courageous on this issue so that we keep the unity within our country for the support of the incredible things he has done.”

“[Biden] is, I think, going to be challenged to explain an issue of this moral significance to people,” Jayapal continued. “The American people are actually quite far away from where the president and even Congress — the majority of Congress — has been on Israel and Gaza. They support the right for Israel to defend itself, to exist. But they do not support a war crime exchanged for another war crime. And I think the president has to be careful about that.”

The United States has largely supported Israel’s pledge to eliminate the militant group Hamas in response to the group’s massacre that left more than 1,400 Israelis dead, including hundreds of civilians.

Israel has responded with a bombardment of Gaza, including hundreds of airstrikes, several bombings, and a siege on food, water, fuel and medical supplies that has killed thousands of Palestinians.

While vowing “unwavering support” to Israel, Biden has also acknowledged the deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza as a result of the violence and dwindling supplies.

In a visit to Tel Aviv earlier this month, Biden announced a U.S.-brokered agreement that allows for the shipment of aid to enter Gaza, though humanitarian agencies, as well as the U.S., have warned what has been let in so far is not enough.

Earlier in the interview, Jayapal called for a “humanitarian truce” to allow for the release of hostages in Gaza and allow humanitarian aid through the territory.

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