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Congressional Progressive Caucus Releases & Immediately Retracts Ill-Advised Letter on Biden’s Ukraine Strategy

Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal stands wearing a mask, surrounded by a horde of reporters holding phones, microphones, and cameras in her face.

It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours for the Congressional Progressive Caucus. On Monday, the 30 House Democrats signed a letter to Joe Biden, urging the president to rethink his strategy in addressing the war in Ukraine, which is still ongoing eight months after Russia’s full invasion earlier this year.

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The letter called for a “proactive diplomatic push, redoubling efforts to seek a realistic framework for a cease fire” through direct negotiations with Russia. This is basically the opposite of the Democratic Party’s stance on the issue, which so far has been to align fiercely with Ukraine. The Washington Post writes, “The Biden administration has been adamant that it is up to Kyiv whether and when to negotiate with Russia, arguing that Ukrainians as a free people should decide their fate.”

The Republican/Fox News stance, meanwhile, has been largely sympathetic to Russia, with the party threatening to cut off aid to Ukraine if they take control of Congress in the midterms next month. The progressives’ letter received intense immediate backlash from other Democrats, both for being questionable policy as well as for seeming to align themselves with those Republicans.

Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Progressive Caucus, put out a letter Tuesday “clarifying” their position and officially retracting the letter. She also punted the blame, saying it was “released by staff without vetting.”

Apparently, the letter was written and signed by caucus members four months ago. Releasing it now does give the impression of piggybacking on those recent threats made by Republicans. The proximity to the midterms, which are just two weeks away, also makes this pretty terrible timing.

According to the Post, “White House spokesman John Kirby said Monday that the administration appreciated the lawmakers’ ‘very thoughtful concerns’ but signaled no shift in the administration strategy on Ukraine.”

“We’re not going to have conversations with the Russian leadership without the Ukrainians being represented,” Kirby told reporters Monday. “Mr. Zelensky gets to determine—because it’s his country—what success looks like and when to negotiate.”

(image: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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