The chairman of the progressive caucus of the US House of Representatives, Pramila Jayapal, has retracted a letter sent by 30 of its members, after heated debate within the Democratic party, calling on Joe Biden to engage in direct talks with Russia. to end the war in Ukraine. on the future strategy for the conflict.
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Jayapal made a dramatic U-turn, deleting the letter sent to the White House the previous day and suggesting it had all been a mistake. “The letter was drafted several months ago, but was unfortunately released by staff without vetting,” she said.
Jayapal lamented what she said merged progressive Democratic calls for a diplomatic end to the war in Ukraine with a recent statement by Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy threatening to stop aid to the stricken country if the Bee next month’s midterm elections, the Republican party will take back the House.
Jayapal said: “The letter sent yesterday is mixed with the opposition of the GOP in support of the just defense of their national sovereignty by the Ukrainians. As such, it’s a distraction at this point and we’re retracting the letter.”
Jayapal’s withdrawal is the latest twist in a strange 24-hour democratic politics, with the progressive caucus apparently giving its name to a call for direct talks with Moscow to end the war in Ukraine, followed by a fierce backlash and then in scene set to walk back from position.
In the original letter, sent to the White House on Monday and first reported by the Washington Post, progressive Democrats called on Biden to make “vigorous diplomatic efforts” toward a “negotiated settlement and ceasefire.” the fire”. They highlighted the global hunger and poverty that could result from Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, as well as “high gas and food prices domestically”, and concluded that America’s top priority should be to “end the conflict quickly”. to search.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the letter was the proposal that Biden “explore incentives to end hostilities, including some form of sanctions easing” for Russia.
The letter provoked fierce opposition from several Democratic lawmakers — including one of its own signatories — and provoked a frosty response from the White House. It was interpreted as the first sign of friction over Ukraine within the Democratic party, which has so far stood steadfastly behind Biden’s unquestioning support for Kiev in its struggle to defend its sovereign territory and win back from Moscow.
The timing of the correspondence was also criticized, as it came at a pivotal point in the war and just a week after Kevin McCarthy, the highest-ranking Republican in the House, said Congress “wouldn’t write a blank check to Ukraine.”
The backlash from Democrats was so intense that Jayapal was forced to issue a “clarification” within hours of the letter being sent.
“Let me be clear: we are united as democrats in our unequivocal commitment to support Ukraine in their fight for their democracy and freedom in the face of the illegal and disproportionate Russian invasion, and nothing in the letter advocates a change in that support , ” she said.
The original letter was signed by some of the most prominent left-wing Democrats in the House, including the so-called “squad” of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib. Jamie Raskin, a member of the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol uprising, was also among the 30.
The White House responded by reiterating Biden’s central approach — that Ukraine itself will decide when and how to negotiate with Russia. The press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, reiterated that there would be “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine”.
Individual Democratic lawmakers were sharper in their response — signatories included. Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin congressman who signed the letter, said it was first drafted in July and said he was taken aback by its publication.
“I have no idea why it broke up now. bad timing,” he said.
A second signatory, Mark Takano of California, issued a statement after the letter was unveiled, saying he “remained steadfast in support of the Ukrainian people”.
Arizona’s Ruben Gallego, a member of the progressive caucus who refused to sign the letter, posted a bitter response on Twitter. He wrote: “The way to end a war? Win fast. How is it won quickly? By giving Ukraine the weapons to defeat Russia.”
A Democrat’s sharpest comment came from former Massachusetts Marine and Representative Jake Auchincloss. He condemned the letter as “an olive branch for a war criminal who is losing his war. Ukraine is on the rise. Congress should be firmly behind [Biden’s] effective strategy, including tighter – not weaker! – sanctions.”
After the initial outburst of criticism, some progressive signatories defended their action. Ro Khanna from California, who be aware who voted for each of the aid packages to Ukraine, said: “Our nation must never silence the debate or scream the debate.”
Congress has so far approved about $66 billion for Ukraine since the Russian invasion began in February, including military, humanitarian and economic aid. As Ukraine ramps up its march on Russian positions as a potentially punishing winter approaches, and with the US midterm elections on November 8, the progressives’ letter couldn’t have arrived at a more sensitive time.
Russia specialists warned that the intervention could encourage Putin and ease the US commitment to lead the international coalition in support of Ukraine. Yoshiko Herrera, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said: “The biggest problem with the letter is that it could weaken US support for Ukraine by fomenting the appearance of division among those who support Ukraine.”
Cracks, albeit fine ones, are already evident on the Republican side. Ukraine’s largest bailout package, worth $40 billion, was approved in May, with 57 Republicans in the House and 11 in the Senate voting against.
Supporters of the letter said it reflected a desire to end the war through diplomacy — an ambition Biden himself has championed. He was explicit about that goal in a speech he gave in June in Delaware.
Biden said: “It seems to me that there needs to be a negotiated settlement at some point down the line. And I don’t know what that means.”