After a backlash, House progressives withdraw letter to Biden on Ukraine strategy

House progressives on Tuesday withdrew a letter they sent Monday to President Joe Biden urging him to negotiate directly with Russia to end the war in Ukraine, now in its ninth month .

“The letter was drafted a few months ago but unfortunately released by staff without verification,” Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the Progressive Caucus, said in a statement Tuesday. Jayapal said she takes responsibility for his release.

PHOTO: Rep. Pramila Jayapal holds a press conference at the US Capitol on August 12, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal holds a press conference at the US Capitol on August 12, 2022 in Washington, DC.

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 being pressured by Washington not to negotiate.”

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

“Let me be clear: we are united as democrats in our unequivocal commitment to support Ukraine in its fight for her democracy and freedom in the face of the illegal and outrageous Russian invasion, and nothing in the letter suggests changing that support out. ‘ Jayapal said Monday. “Diplomacy is an important tool that can save lives – but it’s just a tool.”

Asked whether 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 Tuesday.

“We appreciate the bipartisan efforts,” she said of funding for the war effort to date, “and we will continue to hold discussions with members of Congress on how we can move forward to support Ukraine’s efforts.” ‘ said Jean-Pierre at her daily press conference.

On Tuesday, Pelosi pledged that Ukraine’s aid would be included in a year-end funding bill. While the progressives who wrote the letter have urged direct talks with Russia, none of them have spoken out against further aid to Ukraine.

“Congress has secured over $60 billion in security, economic, humanitarian and budgetary assistance to Ukraine,” she said at a summit of an international aid conference in Zagreb, Croatia. “And more will be on the way when we pass our Omnibus Financing Act this fall.”

PHOTO: Nancy Pelosi listens to Ukraine's President's speech via video link at the opening session of the International Crimea Platform Summit in Zagreb, October 25, 2022.

Nancy Pelosi listens to the President of Ukraine’s speech via video link at the opening session of the International Crimea Platform Summit in Zagreb, October 25, 2022.

Damir Sencar/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

In her remarks, Pelosi made it clear that the US will continue to defend democracy in Ukraine “until victory is won.” Those comments make her the top-ranking Democrat seemingly defying the Progressive Caucus’s message, which other Democratic lawmakers have criticized.

Arizona Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego dismissed the letter on Twitter, saying, “The way to end a war? Win him fast. How is it won quickly? 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 it today.”

Wisconsin Democrat Mark Pocan also said in a tweet that the letter was written over the summer and has been held for publication until now. “I have no idea why it went out now. Bad timing,” he said.

Direct cooperation with Moscow, as the now-withdrawn letter calls for, would mark a major departure from Biden’s strategy of providing billions in military and economic aid as talks with Russia have stalled in recent months.

PHOTO: Soldiers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces load trucks with US military aid at Kiev's Boryspil Airport on February 9, 2022.

Soldiers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces load trucks with U.S. military aid at Kiev’s Boryspil Airport on February 9, 2022.

Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

House Republicans plan to oppose passing on aid to Ukraine. Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Ohio’s Mike Turner, told reporters Monday that year-end funding will be “the wild, wild west of spending” as Democratic lawmakers complete their final wish list of items during the upcoming Lame-Duck -Attach session.

“The problem with Ukrainian funding in parliament is not Ukraine,” he said. “It’s all the things that are attached to it that have nothing to do with Ukraine.”

Turner later signaled that the House GOP, including Leader McCarthy, would support the delivery of more arms to Ukraine.

This is all happening weeks before the midterm elections, which could see Republicans take control of the House of Representatives. Last week House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Punchbowl News that a majority of the Republican House of Representatives would not support a “free blank check” for Ukraine in the next congress as Americans face a recession at home.

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” for Ukrainian aid it has enjoyed in Congress since earlier this year.

Jean-Pierre said she had not seen the letter, but that the White House “will continue to keep those lines of communication open and will continue to have discussions with members of Congress.”

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