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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 McConnellMcConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge Biden and reproductive health rights Biden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls MORE (R-Ky.) in voting overwhelmingly for a bipartisan bill providing $4.5 billion in resources for agencies responding to the influx of migrants.

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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 PocanCapitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview Katherine Clark secures No. 4 leadership spot for House Democrats Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election MORE (D-Wis.), a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC).

Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalInequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift Biden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks 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 RoseGOP sees path to House majority in 2022 Bickering Democrats return with divisions Here are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year 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.

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Rep. Jeff Van DrewJeff Van DrewThe Hill's Campaign Newsletter: Election Day – Part 4 Van Drew fends off challenge from Kennedy after party switch Chamber-endorsed Dems struggle on election night 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) GottheimerDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Democrat Gottheimer wins reelection in New Jersey Cook Political Report shifts 8 more House races toward Democrats MORE (D-N.J.), a co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, told Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiClub for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Governors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight 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 MurphyWhy it's time for a majority female Cabinet Democrats scramble on COVID-19 relief amid division, Trump surprise Bank lobbying group launches ad backing Collins reelection bid 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 JeffriesHouse Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Nominated for another Speaker term, Pelosi says it's her last Katherine Clark secures No. 4 leadership spot for House Democrats MORE (N.Y.) and Caucus Vice Chairwoman Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkFive House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet House Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Nominated for another Speaker term, Pelosi says it's her last MORE (Mass.).

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Hoyer on Trump election challenges: 'I think this borders on treason' Capitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview MORE (D-Md.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) voted for the legislation.

Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineHouse Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Nominated for another Speaker term, Pelosi says it's her last Katherine Clark secures No. 4 leadership spot for House Democrats 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.