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Lawmakers react on first Trump, Biden presidential debate of 2024

House members had urged the candidates to be themselves, look toward the future and come to the debate stage with solutions.
President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump
Posted at 5:14 PM, Jun 27, 2024

Lawmakers and voters across the country had their eyes on President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump during Thursday's debate. It was the first time the two candidates took to the debate on stage together since 2020, and the first time they've seen each other ahead of this presidential election.

Vice President Kamala Harris came out just after the debate on CNN, strongly defending President Joe Biden's performance.

"I'm not going to spend all night here talking about the last 90 minutes when I've seen the last three years of performance," the vice president told Anderson Cooper. "Do we want to look at what November will bring? Do we want to be on a course about strengthening America's economy?"

"The choice in November ... involves extraordinary stakes," Vice President Harris added.

As the issue of reproductive rights came up, Harris said Trump hand selected three members of the United States Supreme Court with the intention that they would ultimately undermine reproductive rights with the repeal of Roe v. Wade.

"Joe Biden was very clear that [he] will sign back into law the protections of Roe v. Wade," the vice president said.

Republicans did not agree, issuing a barrage of scathing rebukes of President Biden's performance on the debate stage specifically.

Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska called it the"most lopsided" debate he has "ever seen," saying he believed former President Trump dominated the stage.

Republican Rep. Harriet Hageman of Wyoming called President Biden "a ghost of his former self." Hageman added that "President Trump showed why he is leading in the polls."

Rep. Monica De La Cruz of Texas, in a striking email statement, called President Biden "mentally unfit to continue as President of the United States."

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas as well as the Trump campaign also issued statements congratulating the former president.

In the run-up to the debate, members of Congress were largely sticking to what was expected from their party, offering encouragement for the candidates on the debate stage along party lines.

Advice from lawmakers who spoke to Scripps News on Capitol Hill before the debate said that the candidates should remain presidential, and that they should come with solutions and be forward-thinking in their plan for the United States. They also noted that the differences between the two candidates were significant.

Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, called Trump "unmoored and unhinged," and said he expected that to go in President Joe Biden's favor.

Democratic Sen. Ed Markey from Massachusetts called President Biden a "consummate pro" and said he didn't have much to offer in the way of specific techniques for the president to win.

Other lawmakers urged the candidates to be authentic.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, told Scripps News, "Who's gonna give Trump advice? You gotta be kidding me."

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said, "I don't know anybody that has more energy than President Trump. Just try to keep up with him."

Sen. Cynthia Lummis, a Wyoming Republican said, "Be forward-looking, talk about the future. President Trump has solutions to the problems this country is facing — illegal immigration, inflation. And, if he focuses on the issues and his solutions, he's going to be a walk-away winner."