He worried the letter could put more pressure on Biden as he tries to maintain domestic support for the war effort, at a time when the region is headed for a difficult winter and Republicans are threatening to cut aid to Ukraine if they take back Congress. .
On Tuesday, Jayapal said the letter was drafted several months ago and was “released by staff without verification”. He also sought to distance Democrats from recent comments by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who indicated the GOP-led House would not support additional aid to Ukraine.
“I accept the responsibility as chairman of the caucus,” Jayapal said in a statement. “The proximity of these statements has created an unfortunate appearance that, having strongly and unanimously supported and voted for every package of military, strategic and economic aid to the Ukrainian people, they somehow want to pull the plug on America with the Republicans. Support for President Zelensky and Ukrainian forces.
Earlier, several signatories also retracted their support for the letter, saying it was written months ago. Late Monday, Rep. Mark Pocken (D-Wis.) sympathized with anyone criticizing the letter on Twitter.
“You listen. First off, this was written in July and I don’t know why it’s out now. Bad timing,” Pocon He tweeted.
“Diplomatic timing is everything,” Rep. Sarah Jacobs (D-Calif.), one of the letter’s other signatories, tweeted Tuesday morning. “I signed this letter on June 30, but a lot has changed since then. I will not sign it today. We must continue to support Ukraine financially and militarily to give them the leverage they need to end this war.
Timing is everything in diplomacy.
I signed this letter on June 30, but a lot has changed since then. I will not sign today.
We must continue to support Ukraine financially and militarily to give them the leverage they need to end this war. https://t.co/jEJlTK1hJI
— Congresswoman Sara Jacobs (@RepSaraJacobs) October 25, 2022
In the original letter to the White House, dated Oct. 24 and first reported by The Washington Post, the lawmakers called on Biden to “continue a proactive diplomatic push, redouble efforts to find a realistic framework for a ceasefire.”
Liberal Democrats noted that the devastating effects of the war are being felt far beyond Ukraine, including rising food and gas prices in the United States and the price of wheat, fertilizer and fuel that have created global food shortages. Nuclear attack from Moscow.
The letter was signed by some of the most prominent and outspoken liberal Democrats in Congress, including Reps. Jamie Raskin (Md.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Corey Bush (Mo.), Ro Khanna (Calif.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.).
For now, his position remains a minority in the Democratic Party, which has overwhelmingly supported Biden’s condemnation of Russia and the leadership of a global coalition to give massive support to Ukraine. Biden frames the conflict as part of his broader vision that the world is witnessing a historic confrontation between dictatorship and democracy.
White House spokesman John Kirby said Monday that the administration appreciated the lawmakers’ “very thoughtful concern” but did not suggest any change in the administration’s strategy in Ukraine.
“We will not have conversations with the Russian leadership without representing the Ukrainians,” Kirby said in a briefing with reporters on Monday. “Mr. Zelensky gets to decide – because it’s his country – what success looks like and when to negotiate.
Privately, some administration officials questioned the timing of the letter, which came two weeks before midterm elections and a week after McCarthy said the GOP might oppose more aid to Ukraine.
Jayapal released a statement Monday evening that “clarified” the position the progressives outlined in the letter, saying they still support Ukraine and underscored Biden’s commitment to ensuring Ukraine is represented in any discussions about its future.
“Let me be clear: We as Democrats are united in our unequivocal commitment to support Ukraine in its fight for democracy and freedom in the face of illegal and rampant Russian aggression,” Jayapal said. “Diplomacy is an important tool that can save lives – but it is only one tool.”
According to three congressional aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, Democrats, including those who signed the letter over the summer, were unaware the letter would be issued on Monday. A person close to the progressive caucus, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, said it would be strange to publicly release a letter with only 30 signatures from the 220 Democrats in the House.
Jayapal was widely blamed for the misstep, with several aides believing it would ruin his chances of winning a seat in the Democratic leadership. Jayapal has made preliminary calls to his colleagues to express interest in running for the leadership post, including Progressive House Rep. Catherine M. Clark (D-Mass.) has raised the specter among some members that he will challenge him. , for the No. 2 position in the party.
Marianna Sotomayor contributed to this report.