House Democrats led by Minority Whip Steny Hoyer on Wednesday plan to roll out an updated version of their "Make It in America" agenda, a package of proposals Hoyer has pushed for much of this decade aimed at creating middle-class jobs by rebuilding the manufacturing sector.
"We think this is a bipartisan agenda," Hoyer said in an interview, adding seconds later that he believes it is even "a unifying agenda."
Hoyer deflected a question about why the update is only now — so late in the session — being unveiled. But he insisted there is genuine hope that some of its provisions could at very least be incorporated into some larger Republican bills.
In fact, some of the proposals being highlighted in the package are bills from newer House Democrats. Inclusion of those measures will almost certainly provide these lawmakers with campaign-trail ammunition to counter claims that House Republicans corner the market on concern about jobs and the economy.
Those bills include one called the Manufacturing Jobs for Veterans Act, sponsored by Rep. Suzan DelBene of Washington. Her bill is designed to accelerate skills-training for veterans for manufacturing careers.
Another is the Education for Jobs Act, sponsored by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, which would expand federal student-loan programs to working professionals and others who may have difficulty meeting current requirements.
And a third is the Workers Opportunity and Retraining Competitive Grant Program, sponsored by Rep. Bill Enyart of Illinois, which establishes a manufacturing grant program to provide scholarships to unemployed workers for manufacturing job retraining.
But among provisions of the Democrats' agenda is one certain to grab attention: a call for renewing the charter of the little-known Export-Import Bank later this year. The bank makes taxpayer-backed loans to help overseas entities buy U.S. products, authorizing roughly $27 billion in fiscal 2013 to back about $37 billion in export sales.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor had teamed with Hoyer to put together a bill in 2012 that raised the bank's lending limit and extended its charter through this year. But the fate of the bank appears very much in the air as conservative lawmakers and groups such as Heritage Action and the Club for Growth have come out against renewing its charter, which expires on Sept. 30.
Hoyer said he knows that Cantor and other House GOP leaders are wrestling with the issue. But he predicted that, ultimately, "I think the business community is going to push Republican leadership very hard on this," and that the charter will be renewed once again.