Progressives, centrists in open warfare after House caves on Trump border bill

Tensions between progressive and centrist lawmakers spilled into open view Thursday after House Democratic leaders caved on legislation to provide resources for agencies handling migrants at the southern border, with both sides angrily pointing fingers over who was to blame.

But House Democrats across the spectrum agreed on one thing: They lost their leverage in pursuing stricter health standards for migrant holding facilities when fellow Democrats on the other side of the Capitol effectively sided with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump faces crucial decisions on economy, guns Are Democrats turning Trump-like? House Democrat calls for gun control: Cities can ban plastic straws but 'we can't ban assault weapons?' MORE (R-Ky.) in voting overwhelmingly for a bipartisan bill providing $4.5 billion in resources for agencies responding to the influx of migrants.

ADVERTISEMENT

After members of the centrist Problem Solvers Caucus threatened to tank an attempt by progressives to make changes to the Senate-passed bill, the two factions began trading barbs that included references to child abuse.

"Since when did the Problem Solvers Caucus become the Child Abuse Caucus?" tweeted Rep. Mark PocanMark William PocanTrump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move Liberal Democrat eyes aid cuts to Israel after Omar, Tlaib denied entry Democrats give cold shoulder to Warren wealth tax MORE (D-Wis.), a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC).

Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalMedicare for all: fears and facts House Democrats urge Trump to end deportations of Iraqis after diabetic man's death 'KamalaCare' fails to address big problem: That we cannot trust insurance companies MORE (D-Wash.), the other CPC co-chair, offered a pejorative nickname of her own.

"The Problem Makers Caucus?" Jayapal said dismissively when The Hill asked about the Problem Solvers Caucus.

Rep. Max RoseMax RoseAssault weapons ban picks up steam in Congress The 11 House Dems from Trump districts who support assault weapons ban Pelosi backers feel vindicated after tumultuous stretch MORE (D-N.Y.), a Problem Solvers Caucus member, confronted Pocan over the tweet on the House floor.

"He's just trying to get retweets. That's all he cares about," Rose told reporters.

ADVERTISEMENT

Rep. Jeff Van DrewJeff Van DrewRepublicans plot comeback in New Jersey The House Democrats who voted to kill impeachment effort House Democrats seek to move past rifts with minimum wage bill MORE (D-N.J.), a Problem Solvers member who represents a swing district, called Pocan’s remark “nonsense” and argued that delaying passage of the border aid amounted to child abuse.

“Child abuse is taking a bill that you know is not going to reach the finish line, is never going to be signed by the president,” Van Drew said.

“What we did was a practical, good move to ensure that kids were going to be taken care of. That bill's going to be signed into law. Those kids within a day are going to start getting some of the relief they need. That's what I call good government. I don't call that child abuse,” he added.

Pocan only doubled down.

"I think if you facilitate taking out the language that takes away the ability to pull a contract from a bad firm that's doing child abuse, I think that's a pretty fair characterization," Pocan told reporters, referring to an amendment sought by House progressives to end government contracts for shelters run by entities that don’t adhere to health standards within six months.

Centrists defended their push to take up the bipartisan Senate bill, pointing to the upper chamber’s 84-8 vote on Wednesday and time running out before lawmakers were set to leave for the July 4 recess.

Congress faced another time crunch: The Trump administration said the Office of Refugee Resettlement will start running out of money by early July.

The House initially passed its own bill on Tuesday, with provisions sought by progressive and Hispanic lawmakers to ensure stricter standards for migrant holding facilities after days of talks with Democratic leaders.

Rep. Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerRepublicans plot comeback in New Jersey Assault weapons ban picks up steam in Congress The 11 House Dems from Trump districts who support assault weapons ban MORE (D-N.J.), a co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, told Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiWhy President Trump needs to speak out on Hong Kong Anti-Trump vets join Steyer group in pressing Democrats to impeach Trump Pelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid MORE (D-Calif.) on Thursday morning that he had rallied enough moderate Democrats to prevent the amended House bill from passing.

“There's a political reality that exists in Washington right now where the Senate just passed overwhelmingly — with three-quarters of the Democratic Caucus in the Senate — passed a bipartisan bill to provide border supplemental funding. And I think we have to try to get resources to the border as soon as possible. If you care about those children, then you need to be working to get resources to the border,” said Rep. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyDemocratic leaders seek to have it both ways on impeachment Senate committee advances 'deepfakes' legislation House Democrats delete tweets attacking each other, pledge to unify MORE (D-Fla.), a co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition.

“I don't find that ... doubting people's motivations is the best way to find compromise and bipartisan solutions to very real problems,” Murphy said of Pocan’s tweet.

Frustrated progressives said the real problem behind centrists’ move on Thursday was rooted in Senate Democrats contributing to the overwhelming vote for the GOP-backed bill that's also supported by the White House.

Senate Democrats helped tank the House-passed bill that included provisions meant to respond to overcrowding and unsanitary conditions at migrant holding facilities. The House-passed bill failed on the Senate floor, 37-55.

“I blame Senate Democrats, first and foremost, for putting us in this position,” Jayapal said.

“Democrats in the Senate have to hold our leverage. And they did not do that. They did not do that,” she added. “I think Senate Democrats have to wake up and stop voting with Mitch McConnell and allow us to have some leverage so that we can actually use our majority in the House.”

The frustration showed in the vote to pass the Senate bill: While a majority of House Democrats ultimately voted for it, 95 cast votes in opposition. All but seven Republicans voted for the measure.

The Democratic defectors included members of leadership, including Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (N.M.), Caucus Chairman Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesAnti-Trump vets join Steyer group in pressing Democrats to impeach Trump Appetite for Democratic term limits fizzling out Jeffries dismisses optics: We wanted testimony from Mueller, not Robert De Niro MORE (N.Y.) and Caucus Vice Chairwoman Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkToni Morrison dies at 88 Former Virginia deputy AG: Trump's Twitter attacks a 'distraction' from 'substantive' critiques House Democrats inch toward majority support for impeachment MORE (Mass.).

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerLiberal Democrat eyes aid cuts to Israel after Omar, Tlaib denied entry Lawmakers blast Trump as Israel bars door to Tlaib and Omar Israel denies Omar and Tlaib entry after Trump tweet MORE (D-Md.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) voted for the legislation.

Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineHillicon Valley: O'Rourke proposal targets tech's legal shield | Dem wants public review of FCC agreement with T-Mobile, Sprint | Voters zero in on cybersecurity | Instagram to let users flag misinformation Democrat calls for public review of T-Mobile-Sprint merger agreement Pelosi: Israel's Omar-Tlaib decision 'a sign of weakness' MORE (D-R.I.), who leads House Democrats’ messaging arm, said Senate Democratic support for the upper chamber’s version handed Republicans a talking point. He voted against the Senate bill on Thursday.

“You heard how often our Republican colleagues invoked the vote out of the Senate. I think it obviously significantly undermined our leverage and our ability to keep these important protections in the bill. It certainly made our job harder,” Cicilline said.

Mike Lillis, Scott Wong and Juliegrace Brufke contributed.