WASHINGTON (NEWSnet/AP) — President Joe Biden’s team is sending senior advisors Mike Donilon and Steve Ricchetti, along with Campaign Chair Jen O’Malley Dillon, to meet for a caucus lunch Thursday with Democratic senators.

This discussion will be closed-doors, according to both a Senate leadership aide and the Biden campaign.

It is happening as a flurry of calls for Biden to step out of the 2024 race continues to spiral, with Vermont Senator Peter Welch calling Wednesday evening for the president to leave the race. He was the first Senate Democrat to do so publicly, saying he is concerned because “the stakes could not be higher.”

The Republican candidate is expected to be former president Donald Trump, who won his party’s primary races. The Republican National Convention opens July 15 in Milwaukee.

Earlier on Wednesday, House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi said merely “it's up to the president to decide” if he should stay in the race, and celebrity donor George Clooney said he should not run and Democratic senators and lawmakers expressed fresh fear about his ability to beat Trump.

On Capitol Hill, an eighth House Democrat, Rep. Pat Ryan of New York, and later a ninth, Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, publicly asked Biden to step aside.

In the meantime, Biden has been hosting world leaders in Washington for the NATO summit this week with a schedule of formal meetings, sideline chats and diplomatic dinners. He has a news conference scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Eastern time Thursday, at the conclusion of the NATO events.

Given the schedule with the foreign leaders, Pelosi encouraged Democrats to “let’s just hold off” with any announcements about his campaign.

“Whatever you’re thinking, either tell somebody privately but you don’t have to put that out on the table until we see,” she said, how it goes “this week.”

Although Biden still has strong support from key members of his coalition, the questions about his political future began after what many considered to be a dismal performance by the president in a televised debate against Trump on June 27.

Welch said in his Washington Post opinion piece published Wednesday evening, “We cannot unsee President Biden’s disastrous debate performance.”

The first-term senator said Vermont loves Biden and he was calling on the president to withdraw from the race “with sadness.”

Biden’s age is part of the discussion. He is 81. Trump is 78.

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