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House Dems use retreat to reset after tumultuous first 100 days

LEESBURG, Va. — House Democrats decamped Washington Wednesday to reset and refocus at a posh resort in rural Virginia one day after an ideological fight over spending exposed the sharp divides simmering within the caucus.

Democrats are hoping to celebrate their first 100-days in the majority with a show of unity as they look to formalize their summer agenda — which is expected to center heavily on infrastructure and drug pricing, two areas that could receive bipartisan buy-in after months of mostly focusing on high-level messaging bills to satisfy the party’s progressive base.Pelosi, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and the rest of Democratic leaders hope to use the conference to highlight the big-ticket legislative items they plan to pivot to in the coming months.

Several committees are involved in crafting a wide-ranging infrastructure bill, which will not only address highways and transit but housing and clean water policy among other things. The bill is expected to be on the House floor in early summer and lawmakers’ “working lunch” on Thursday will focus on the issue.

“We’re moving ahead and we want to do that in a bipartisan fashion, with the president, with the Senate and with the House. We want to get that done for the people,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said.

Democrats are also expected to vote on legislation to lower prescription drug prices as soon as May, another area where Democratic leaders are hopeful of gaining some Republican support.

Democrats will have a session on raising the minimum wage to $15, a fight that has recently bubbled up in the caucus and further exposed the divide between the party’s two ideological flanks. But absent from Democrats’ schedule is controversial legislation like Medicare-for-All and the Green New Deal, progressive policies that do not have broad support from moderates in the caucus.

“What we’re here to do is get something done, not introduce legislative proposals that are Bernie Sander’s wet dreams,” said a senior Democratic aide. “There’s always going to be internal maneuvering and external maneuvering. But there is a reality here that there is a Republican Senate and a Republican president.”

As they prepared for the retreat Wednesday, Democrats paused to reckon with what they have and haven’t done three months into their new majority.

The first month of Democratic rule was consumed by the longest shutdown in U.S. history — a slow and frustrating start for more than 60 freshman members.

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