Georgia Republicans say Biden’s health deserves more scrutiny

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-GA) is seen at a Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing on July 12th, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Nathan Posner for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Nathan Posner for The AJC

Credit: Nathan Posner for The AJC

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-GA) is seen at a Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing on July 12th, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Nathan Posner for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Long before President Joe Biden’s weak debate performance last month led to widespread questions about his ability to serve a second term, lawmakers such as U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter were sounding alarms that the president’s health had declined.

Carter sent a letter to White House chief of staff Jeff Zients on June 24 calling for Biden to submit to a cognitive test, saying that “credible reports surfaced suggesting that Biden is not mentally fit to uphold the duties of the office of the president.” Earlier that month, The Wall Street Journal published an article including multiple accounts of Biden’s perceived mental decline.

In his letter, Carter cited those examples and said the American people deserve to know whether Biden can carry on.

“That is why I encourage the president to perform a cognitive test immediately,” the St. Simons Island Republican wrote. “I implore you to then publish the test results, so the American people know the full mental and intellectual health of their president.”

Since then, scrutiny of Biden’s age and mental acuity has only intensified and reached its highest levels after his debate performance on June 27. And as Democrats debate whether Biden should abandon his reelection campaign and allow the party to select a new nominee, Republicans say their earlier questions about the president have only been validated.

Biden and his allies have said the debate reflects “a bad night” and that he has the capacity and the intention of serving another four years. The president has said repeatedly that he will not abandon his campaign, and most Democrats in Congress, including every member of Georgia’s delegation, have said they support him.

“He’s the same Joe Biden today as he has been throughout the last 3 1/2 years,” U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, told reporters Tuesday. “His record is there for all to see.”

Yet many Republicans see a man in decline, and they say it not only makes Biden unfit for a second term but calls into question whether he can finish out the current one that ends in January.

While Republicans sound the alarm over Biden, many Democrats have criticized the GOP for failing to submit former President Donald Trump to the same level of scrutiny. While Trump spoke more clearly and forcefully than Biden during the June 27 debate, his answers were full of misinformation and falsehoods. In campaign rallies, Trump often rambles and gives nonsensical answers.

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, who has stood behind Biden in recent days, said there were many reasons why Trump should be scrutinized. He cited the attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election and the violent mob of Trump supporters who breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Ossoff also mentioned some of Trump’s more eye-raising remarks, such as when he suggested that injecting disinfectants into the body could help ward off COVID-19 or considered whether nuclear weapons could be used to stop a hurricane in its path.

“Every GOP leader in Georgia and across the country should be asked every single day how they can continue to support a man of such low character,” Ossoff said.

U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, said it’s not that Trump is getting a pass; it’s just that Biden is now getting the same level of investigation Trump has faced for years.

“I think what you’re seeing right now is more equal scrutiny than what we’ve had before out of mainstream media,” Loudermilk said.

In addition to calling for cognitive testing, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee have sued Attorney General Merrick Garland in hopes that a court will force him to release audiotapes of special counsel Robert Hur’s interview with Biden as part of an investigation into his possession of classified documents.

Hur described Biden in his investigative report as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” and the Department of Justice later made transcripts from their conversations public. But Republicans said the tapes are needed to provide a fuller picture of Biden’s performance.

On Wednesday, House Republicans pushed forward on an effort to hold Garland in contempt for refusing to turn over the audio. Democrats’ efforts to table the resolution or refer it to committee were both voted down. If the resolution is approved, Garland would be fined $10,000 a day until he turns over the tapes.

About the same time the Garland lawsuit was filed, Republicans on the House Oversight Committee requested that Biden’s primary care physician appear before them to answer questions about the president’s health.

Carter said he hopes the president and his family are seriously considering whether he should resign.

“I would submit that for the good of the country that they should make the decision for him to step down,” Carter said. “He’s served his country well for many years, and we appreciate his service. But it’s time to go.”

U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton, also joined fellow conservatives in suggesting Biden submit to cognitive testing. He said lawmakers in Washington were aware of the declines well before the debate allowed tens of millions of Americans to see the same.

“He’s in bad health,” Scott said. “I don’t wish him any ill will as a human being; I don’t wish him any harm. But he has shown America what many of us have believed for a long time — that he’s had some reduction in his cognitive abilities.”