Liberal House Democrats' letter asking Biden to use 'diplomacy' with Russian hit with party backlash

The effort was led by Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

Published: October 25, 2022 12:25pm

Updated: October 26, 2022 8:49pm

Thirty of the House's most liberal, or progressive, members sent President Biden a letter urging him to use "direct diplomacy” with Russia to end its war against Ukraine, a move that got enough pushback from other Democrat chamber members that a revised – almost completely different – letter was sent. 

The request to Biden was led by Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

The letter, dated Monday, and as reported by Politico, condemned Russia’s "outrageous and illegal invasion of Ukraine," and restated the lawmakers' support for "a free and independent Ukraine."

However, their word "diplomacy" sparked the backlash.

Former CPC Co-Chairman Rep. Mark Pocan, of Wisconsin, tweeted in apparent response to questions about the letter: "First, this was written in July & I have no idea why it went out now. Bad timing." 

The focus of the backlash appears to be over the letter breaking with the position of most elected Washington officials: That the U.S. should support Ukraine's efforts to fight back against Russia but also allow Ukraine to make its own decisions about any negotiated settlement.

"It is America’s responsibility to pursue every diplomatic avenue to support such a solution that is acceptable to the people of Ukraine," the 2-page letter in part reads. "In conclusion, we urge you to make vigorous diplomatic efforts in support of a negotiated settlement and ceasefire, engage in direct talks with Russia … ."

Arizona Democrat Rep. Ruben Gallego, a CPC member who did not sign the letter, told Politico Playbook it isn’t America’s role to force talks:

"It’s up to the Ukrainians to determine their destiny, and the best way to do that is to support Ukraine in their fight for freedom, their fight for democracy," he said.

Jayapal issued a second statement clarifying the position of the letter. 

However, the second letter appears to take a markedly different position, stating, "Diplomacy is an important tool that can save lives – but it is just one tool,” she said. “As we also made explicitly clear in our letter and will continue to make clear, we support President Biden and his administration’s commitment to nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.”

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