Peace Out: Progressive Caucus Retracts Letter on Ukraine Policy Over Fears It Aligned With GOP

After facing widespread condemnation from party, caucus chairwoman Pramila Jayapal blames letter on staff

U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and other caucus members hold a news conference in advance of the expected House passage of H.R. 6376, the "Inflation Reduction Act of 2022" at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 12, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
October 25, 2022

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters)—The U.S. Congressional Progressive Caucus withdrew a letter to the White House urging a negotiated settlement to the war in Ukraine, the group's chairperson, Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal, said on Tuesday.

"The Congressional Progressive Caucus hereby withdraws its recent letter to the White House regarding Ukraine," Jayapal said in a statement. She added: "The letter was drafted several months ago, but unfortunately was released by staff without vetting."

The letter became public on Monday, leaving some other Democrats feeling blindsided just two weeks before Nov. 8 mid-term elections that will determine which political party controls Congress. And it appeared just as Republicans were facing concerns that their party might cut back military and humanitarian aid that has helped Ukraine since Russia invaded in February.

The letter drew immediate pushback, including from some members of the Progressive Caucus. "Russia doesn't acknowledge diplomacy, only strength. If we want Ukraine to continue as a free and democratic country that it is, we must support their fight," Democratic Representative Ruben Gallego, a caucus member, said in a written comment.

Representative Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican and likely next speaker, told Punchbowl News in an interview this month that there would be no "blank check" for Ukraine if Republicans take over.

In her statement withdrawing the letter, Jayapal said that, because of the timing, the letter was being conflated as being equivalent to McCarthy's remark.

"Nothing could be further from the truth. Every war ends with diplomacy, and this one will too after Ukrainian victory. The letter sent yesterday, although restating that basic principle, has been conflated with GOP opposition to support for the Ukrainians’ just defense of their national sovereignty. As such, it is a distraction at this time and we withdraw the letter," Jayapal's statement said.

Biden administration officials had said in response to the letter that diplomacy can only occur when all sides are open to talk, and that they had had no such indication from Moscow.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Cynthia Osterman)