After Internal Divisions, Pelosi and House Democrats Seek to Regroup

LEESBURG, Va. — House Democrats insisted on Thursday that they remained optimistic about potential compromises with the Trump administration on infrastructure, prescription drugs prices and immigration, even as they criticized the president’s prospective Federal Reserve Board picks and his recent comments about migrants and asylum seekers.

The balance that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, her deputies and new Democratic members sought to strike during an annual member retreat underscored the contradictions of their approach to divided government.

Even as they have railed against the president in pushing to expand their agenda and diverse majority, the Democrats still have clung to the possibility of compromise with President Trump and Senate Republicans to deliver some of their campaign promises.

Much of the agenda that Democrats worked to highlight at the three-day conference at the Lansdowne Resort and Spa in suburban Virginia — “putting check marks next to the to-do list,” as Representative Veronica Escobar, Democrat of Texas, put it — has yet to reach the Senate floor. And it is not likely to, with Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, in control.

The first 100 days of the Democrats’ majority in the House included a record-long government shutdown and involved partisan squabbling, including over tougher administration oversight and the scope of the party’s priorities.

The retreat also offered a chance for lawmakers to regroup after multiple internal fissures that played out publicly, including a vote delay on a two-year budget deal and efforts by the House Democratic campaign wing to shut down party challengers.

“This is bigger than us now,” said Representative Jahana Hayes, Democrat of Connecticut. “We’re a country built on compromise.”

Several sessions at the conference aimed to address what lawmakers described as “kitchen table issues” — maintaining economic growth, lowering drug prices and working toward what Ms. Pelosi said could be at least a $1 trillion infrastructure package.

“I’m not giving up on the president,” Ms. Pelosi said in reference to immigration overhaul, even as she bashed Mr. Trump’s recent comments that the country was “full” and could not accept any more migrants.

But senior Democrats did not hold back from criticizing the president or the recent upheaval in his administration.

Ms. Pelosi and Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the No. 5 Democrat in the House, excoriated the two men Mr. Trump has singled out as potential nominees to the Fed: Stephen Moore, a conservative economic adviser to Mr. Trump, and Herman Cain, a former pizza executive whose 2012 bid for president ended over accusations of sexual misconduct. (Neither man has been formally nominated.)

“With stiff competition, these two appointments to the Fed are the worst, ill-suited candidates the president could have come up with,” Ms. Pelosi told reporters at the retreat.

Mr. Jeffries called the potential Fed picks an embarrassment. “It’s not clear to me if that’s reality or a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit,” he said.

By contrast, Ms. Pelosi praised Mr. Trump’s handpicked Fed chairman, Jerome H. Powell, and his independence in the face of repeated criticism from the president. He spoke to House Democrats later Thursday in a closed-door session on economic issues, a speech Ms. Pelosi said was not intended to be political.

Democrats at the retreat — which offered yoga sessions and a cooking class for lawmakers and their families — largely insisted their ideological divisions remained a strength. In one instance, Representative Jim Himes, Democrat of Connecticut, noted that moderates were responsible for the new majority, despite the emergence of a few progressive “rock stars.”

But Representative Ben Ray Luján, Democrat of New Mexico and the deputy speaker, shrugged off any disagreements. “Make no mistake,” he said, “we get together to solve big problems.”

Ms. Pelosi, who entered the dinner on Wednesday night with her caucus and the celebrity couple John Legend and Chrissy Teigen to “We Are Family,” rebuked news coverage that highlighted divisions in the wings of her new majority, telling reporters the next day, “You guys have it all wrong.”

On Wednesday, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, had argued that the decision against voting on a budget caps deal this week was not a blow to the Democratic agenda. The delay came after objections from the Congressional Progressive Caucus and fiscally conservative Democrats.

“Very frankly, we wouldn’t have lost any vote this week if we wanted to win,” Mr. Hoyer said.