The progressive caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives retracted a letter sent by 30 members urging President Joe Biden to engage in direct talks with Russia to end the war in Ukraine.
The retraction of the letter came after a heated debate within the Democratic party about future strategy over the conflict.
Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal made a dramatic U-turn and scrapped a letter that had been sent to the White House the day prior. Jayapal implied it had all been a mistake.
“The letter was drafted several months ago, but unfortunately was released by staff without vetting,” Jayapal said.
She continued that the caucus regretted a conflation of the progressive Democratic call for a diplomatic end to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, saying a recent statement by Republica House leader Kevin McCarthy threatened to end aid for Ukraine if the Republicans took back the House in the midterms next month.
“The letter sent yesterday 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 said.
The retraction is the latest twist in a strange 24 hours on the Hill. The Democrats have seen the progressive caucus apparently lend its name to a call for direct talks with Moscow to end the war in Ukraine, followed by a fierce backlash and then staged walking back of the position.
In the original letter sent to the White House, the progressive Democrats called on Biden to make “vigorous diplomatic efforts” towards a “negotiated settlement and ceasefire”.
The letter highlighted the global hunger and poverty that could ensue from Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine as well as “elevated gas and food prices at home”, concluding that America’s top priority should be to seek “a rapid end to the conflict”.
But it also included a proposal for Biden to explore “incentives to end hostilities, including some form of sanctions relief” for Russia.
It sparked quick and fierce pushback from several Democratic lawmakers and elicited a frosty White House response.