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Pelosi takes fire from progressives over border

Tensions in the House Democratic Caucus are spilling into the open over how to address dismal conditions at migrant detention centers on the border.

Progressives are angry with centrists and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Energy: Lake Mead's decline points to scary water future in West | White House leads opposition to raising gas tax | Biden taps ex-New Mexico lawmaker for USDA post Trump against boycotting Beijing Olympics in 2022 House Democrats' campaign arm raises almost million in May MORE (D-Calif.) for the decision to move a $4.6 billion emergency funding bill already passed by the Senate through the House.

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The bill, passed at the end of June before lawmakers went on their July 4 recess, provided funds to run migrant shelters, but liberals argue the legislation did not impose tough enough rules to ensure migrants are fed and sheltered at a reasonable standard.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a former co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), told The Hill that taking up the Senate version of the bill was “a mistake.”

“By not being firm enough with [the Department of Homeland Security] ... you continue to weaponize that department to serve Trump and Trump only,” said Grijalva, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

Frictions between Pelosi and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezHillary Clinton backs Shontel Brown in Ohio congressional race Ocasio-Cortez, Gillibrand and Moulton call for more high-speed rail funding in infrastructure package Pelosi picks Democrats for special panel tackling inequality MORE (D-N.Y.) also have come to the forefront over the bill.

In an interview with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd published over the weekend, Pelosi shrugged off criticism of the funding bill from Ocasio-Cortez and three of her strongest allies, Reps. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarYoung Turks founder on Democratic establishment: 'They lie nonstop' Hillary Clinton backs Shontel Brown in Ohio congressional race The Hill's Morning Report - Dems to go-it-alone on infrastructure as bipartisan plan falters MORE (D-Minn.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibHouse Republicans introduce resolution to censure the 'squad' Progressives rally behind Omar while accusing her critics of bias Omar: I wasn't equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries MORE (D-Mich.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyIt's past time we elect a Black woman governor House Republicans introduce resolution to censure the 'squad' Progressives rally behind Omar while accusing her critics of bias MORE (D-Mass.). 

“All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world,” said Pelosi. “But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”

Ocasio-Cortez returned fire over Twitter, writing “that public ‘whatever’ is called public sentiment.”

And the Progressive Change Campaign Committee on Monday launched a fundraising effort slamming Pelosi’s criticism of Ocasio-Cortez.

Pelosi in the interview defended her decision to bring the Senate bill to the floor. Seventy-one Democrats, mostly progressives, voted against the legislation in a 322-85 vote. Only 14 Republicans voted “no.”

She blamed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGraham quips key to working with Trump: We both 'like him' The Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare here to stay Democrats scramble to unify before election bill brawl MORE (R-Ky.), saying he wouldn’t have allowed a vote in the Senate on legislation that included tougher requirements for the treatment of people held in detention centers.

In a “Dear Colleague” letter sent to House Democrats on Monday, Pelosi said the caucus’s top priorities would be improving detention center conditions and preventing the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the decennial census.

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“Whether or not the President responds to our request to improve medical care standards for the health and safety of children, and while Senator McConnell still refuses to help the children suffering in these deplorable conditions, we must lead a Battle Cry across America to protect the children,” wrote Pelosi.

She also endorsed a bill introduced by Rep. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarAbbott signs bill making concealed carry without permits legal in Texas Democrats weigh next steps on Jan. 6 probe Gun violence: Save the thoughts and prayers, it's time for Senate action MORE (D-Texas) that would require better training for agents at detention centers.

Grijalva and other progressives are also angry with the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats who have signed a pledge to vote together on issues where 75 percent of the group, and 51 percent of both the Republicans and Democrats in the group, agree.

Progressives see the Problem Solvers as obstructionist, despite the group’s stated ambition to untangle political knots.

“The problem with the Problem Solvers is they’ve made triangulation an art form,” said Grijalva. “In action, [they’re] dominated by the Republican agenda.”

Rep. Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerOmar feuds with Jewish Democrats House moderates unveil .25T infrastructure plan Democrats debate shape of new Jan. 6 probe MORE (D-N.J.), a co-chairman of the Problem Solvers Caucus, told The Hill in an interview that getting a bill passed and signed into law quickly was important for the emergency border supplemental.

“On that particular issue, obviously, part of why many of us felt it was essential that we actually pass legislation is we had to get immediate humanitarian aid to children and not delay,” said Gottheimer.

Gottheimer said the fact that the bill was passed with a large majority showed it was smart to move the Senate version and get help to people at the facilities quickly.

“To walk away without delivering humanitarian aid to children was just unconscionable. So that was what guided my decision. And I think now, on the bigger picture, we’ve got to get comprehensive reform done,” added Gottheimer.

But progressives say Gottheimer and other Democrats who backed the bill were doing the bidding of McConnell and the Trump administration. They argue Democrats should have stuck together and used their leverage to win a stronger bill. And they are stung by the fact that more Democrats opposed the bill on the floor than House Republicans.

CPC Co-Chairman Mark PocanMark William PocanThe Memo: The pre-Trump 'normal' is gone for good Overnight Defense: Pentagon pitches 5B budget | Kamala Harris addresses US Naval Academy graduates Pentagon pitches 5B budget with cuts to older weapons MORE (D-Wis.) said the Problem Solvers’ push for the Senate bill could make it difficult to work with them in the future.

On Twitter, Pocan referred to the group as “the Child Abuse Caucus.”

“I mean, it’s just gonna be a lot harder for us to care enough to help deliver votes,” he said.

One Democratic lawmaker said there is talk of plans to slow down progress on Problem Solvers members’ bills during committee in the wake of their role in the passage of the Senate bill. 

Progressives wield substantial power in the House legislative process.

CPC members chair many influential House committees, including Judiciary, Rules, Oversight and Reform, Homeland Security, Small Business and Natural Resources.

Grijalva warned Problem Solvers and other moderates who try to “thread the needle” to avoid partisan conflict on issues would ultimately have to face public opinion.

“They need to ‘thread’ lightly,” said Grijalva.

But the Natural Resources chairman dismissed the possibility of using the CPC’s chairmanships to exclude moderates from the legislative process.

“I don’t think pettiness is a strategy and I don’t think retribution is a strategy,” he said.