After backlash, House Progressives withdraw letter to Biden on Ukraine strategy

House Progressives on Tuesday retracted a letter they sent to President Joe Biden on Monday in which they urged him to negotiate directly with Russia on the end of the war in Ukrainenow in its ninth month.

“The letter was written several months ago, but unfortunately has been released by staff without verification,” Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said in a statement Tuesday. Jayapal said she accepts responsibility for its publication.

Representative Pramila Jayapal holds a press conference at the United States Capitol in Washington, DC on August 12, 2022.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar confirmed in a statement to ABC News on Tuesday that the 30 progressives wrote the letter over the summer “in response to reports that Ukraine was under pressure from Washington not to to negotiate”.

The retraction follows backlash from Democrats and Republicans, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It also comes less than a day after Jayapal clarified the meaning of the letter after initial criticism from lawmakers.

“Let’s be clear: we are united as democrats in our unequivocal commitment to support Ukraine in its fight for its democracy and freedom in the face of Russia’s outrageous and illegal invasion, and nothing in the letter advocates a change in that support,” Jayapal said Monday. “Diplomacy is an important tool that can save lives, but it is only one tool among many.”

When asked if the White House had advised the Progressive Caucus to withdraw the letter, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on the letter on Tuesday.

“We appreciate the bipartisan effort,” she said of funding the war effort to date, “and we will continue to engage with members of Congress on how to keep moving forward. forward in order to support Ukraine in its efforts,” said Jean-Pierre during his daily press briefing.

Speaking on Tuesday, Pelosi promised Ukrainian aid would be included in a year-end funding bill. While the progressives who wrote the letter called for direct talks with Russia, none opposed more aid to Ukraine.

“Congress has secured more than $60 billion in security, economic, humanitarian and fiscal aid for Ukraine,” she told an International Aid Conference summit in Zagreb, Croatia. “And more will be on the way when we pass our omnibus funding bill this fall.”

PHOTO: Nancy Pelosi listens to the Ukrainian President's speech via video link during the opening session of the Crimean International Platform summit in Zagreb, October 25, 2022.

Nancy Pelosi listens to the Ukrainian President’s speech via video link during the opening session of the Crimean International Platform summit in Zagreb, October 25, 2022.

Damir Sencar/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

In his remarks, Pelosi made it clear that the United States would continue to defend democracy in Ukraine “until victory is won.” Those comments make her the highest-ranking Democrat to seemingly contradict the message of the Progressive Caucus, which other Democratic lawmakers have criticized.

Arizona Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego pushed back on the letter on Twitter, saying, “The way to end a war? Win it fast. How is it won fast? By giving Ukraine the weapons to defeat Russia”. some who signed it. “I signed this letter on June 30, but a lot has changed since then,” California Democrat Sara Jacobs tweeted. “I wouldn’t sign him today.”

Wisconsin Democrat Mark Pocan also said in a tweet that the letter was written over the summer and withheld for publication so far. “I have no idea why he came out now. Bad timing,” he said.

Engaging directly with Moscow, as demanded by the now retracted letter, would mark a major departure from Biden’s strategy of providing billions in military and economic aid as talks with Russia have broken down in recent months.

PHOTO: Servicemen of the Ukrainian military forces employees load trucks with US military aid at Kyiv's Boryspil airport on February 9, 2022.

Servicemen of the Ukrainian military forces employees load trucks with US military aid at Boryspil airport in Kyiv on February 9, 2022.

Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

House Republicans plan to fight to push through aid to Ukraine. Republican Mike Turner of Ohio of the Top House Intelligence Committee told reporters on Monday that year-end funding would be “the wild, wild west of spending” as Democratic lawmakers join their final wish list during the next lame session. .

“The problem with Ukrainian funding in the House is not Ukraine,” he said. “It’s all the stuff attached to it that has nothing to do with Ukraine.”

Turner later signaled that the House GOP, including Chief McCarthy, would support supplying more weapons to Ukraine.

This all comes weeks before the midterm elections in which Republicans could take control of the House. Last week, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Punchbowl News that a Republican majority in the House in the next Congress would not support “a free blank check” for Ukraine as Americans are facing a recession in their country.

Asked about the letter during her press briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration was “very grateful” for the “bipartisan support” it has for Ukrainian aid. in Congress since the beginning of this year.

Jean-Pierre said she hadn’t seen the letter but that the White House would “continue to keep those lines of communication open and continue to have conversations with members of Congress.”

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