House Progressives assess retraction of Russian diplomacy letter amid Democratic firestorm

The letter to Biden was published without the knowledge of many Democratic lawmakers who put their names to it, several people told POLITICO, speaking candidly on condition of anonymity. Although it was partially updated with new information about Russia’s war on Ukraine and sent to other lawmakers to reach a threshold of 30 signatories, POLITICO has learned, the letter was published mostly in its original form.

The letter’s original release date was Aug. 1, a congressional aide said, adding that it was never made clear why there was a delay. His text circulated on the Hill during the August legislative recess weeks.

“Once you’ve signed a letter, it’s up to the original editors and unfortunately not all of them will update people,” the rep said. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Progressive Caucus whip and signatory of the pro-Russia-diplomacy letter, tweeted tuesday. “That’s why some of us don’t sign letters without first knowing when and how they will be published.”

Other signatories and congressional aides accused the Progressive Caucus office of publishing it as the questions swirl on whether Republicans continue to finance The defense of Ukraine if it wins a majority in the House in two weeks, as expected.

“An amateurish hour from the CPC for not anticipating this,” said one lawmaker who signed on and, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity.

A Hill staffer put it even more bluntly: “It’s just a disaster. The CPC just needs to clean up.

The letter called on Biden to consider a diplomatic avenue to end Russia’s war on Ukraine if the opportunity arises. Recognizing the difficulty of direct talks with Putin, lawmakers have urged consideration of a negotiated settlement as the risk of nuclear war increases. Ukraine opposes such a diplomatic route as it would likely require ceding part of its territory to Moscow. And the Biden administration has promised that the United States will do nothing without Kyiv’s support.

Amid Monday’s pushback, the Progressive Caucus Chairman Pramila Jayapal (D-wash.) — who makes an offer for the House Democratic leadership next year — issued a statement clarifying his support for Ukraine and insisting the letter did not suggest a break with Biden’s policies.

His explanation did not quell anger in the Democratic caucus, where several lawmakers publicly denounced the letter in a remarkable display of intraparty rejection. One of the signatories even said she wouldn’t have signed it today.

“Timing in diplomacy is everything. I signed that letter on June 30, but a lot has changed since then. I would not sign it today,” the representative said. Sarah Jacobs (D-California) said.

Many Democrats particularly took issue with the letter’s suggestions that sanctions relief might be on the table in order to induce Russia to end its assault on Ukraine.

representing Jake Auchinclos (D-Mass.) called him “an olive branch to a war criminal who loses his war.” representing Susan Wild (D-Pa.) told POLITICO she was “appalled that some of my [Democratic] my colleagues think we can negotiate with Putin. Neither lawmaker signed the letter or belongs to the Progressive Caucus.

Other signatories to the letter quickly clarified their own positions, and others are expected to speak as early as Tuesday. representing Marc Takano (D-California), who also chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee, released a statement on Monday declaring his continued support for Ukrainian self-determination: “Only Ukrainians have the right to determine the terms under which this war end.”

The saga could have implications beyond Ukraine’s funding efforts, given Jayapal’s leadership ambitions. Be p. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who also signed the letter, is vying for the party’s top job on the powerful House Oversight Committee.

representing Gerry Connoly (D-Va.), who is running against Raskin for the job, released a statement on Tuesday lambasting “wishful thinking regarding the nature of the Russian threat” — but without mentioning the letter or Raskin.

Sarah Ferris and Burgess Everett contributed to this report.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *