Clinton Says No To Current Senate Fast Track Plan

Dave Johnson

Candidate Hillary Clinton has spoken up about the fast track trade promotion authority (TPA) that is currently headed for a Senate vote as early as Tuesday.

After the first fast track vote failed in the House last week, Clinton said Obama should work with Democrats to get a deal that was better for workers. On Thursday she added that she would “probably not” vote for fast track if she were still in the Senate.

On June 14 Clinton said said that the failure to pass fast track (last week) was an opportunity for Obama to work with Democrats and make the trade deal more acceptable.

The former first lady said any trade deal should protect U.S. jobs, increase wages and improve the nation’s security.

“In order to get a deal that meets these high standards, the President should listen to and work with his allies in Congress, starting with Nancy Pelosi, who have expressed their concerns about the impact that a weak agreement would have on our workers, to make sure we get the best, strongest deal possible,” she said. “And if we don’t get it, there should be no deal.”

Clinton on Thursday said she would vote against fast-track trade authority now if she was in the Senate. CBS reported it this way:

Asked whether she would have voted for TPA, she responded, “At this point, probably not because it’s a process vote and I don’t want to say it’s the same as TPP.” Clinton, who talked with Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston for his show, “Ralston Reports,” also said, “Right now, I’m focused on making sure we get Trade Adjustment Assistance, and I certainly would not vote for it unless I were absolutely confident we would get Trade Adjustment Assistance.”

The first statement was stronger than the second. The first is (to me) clearly saying that the deal that was voted down in the House needed improvement and Obama should work with Democrats to make it better – implying (to me) he should stop working with Wall Street and Republicans to pass a deal that is screwing 99 percent of us.

The second statement leaves too much room, saying she would not vote for it without being sure there will be trade adjustment help for the workers who will lose jobs as a result. She says she would need to be “absolutely confident” it will pass, while Obama has said he will sign trade promotion authority before there is a vote on trade adjustment assistance. That implies there will be a TAA, when everyone knows that Republicans will not vote for TAA, calling it “welfare.” And it seems (to me) to say she could support a “trade” deal that will cause job loss.

Of course, then her husband, former President Bill Clinton stepped on the whole thing, muddying the waters. Politico has that story, in “Clintons cover both sides on trade deals“:

But Wednesday night, Bill Clinton muddied his wife’s message and deflated the hopes of some on the left by touting the benefits of trade deals in an appearance on “The Daily Show.”

“On balance, the countries that we have trade agreements with, we tend to have a balance of trade, much more than, let’s say with China,” the former president told Jon Stewart, “with whom we have no trade agreement, with whom we have a humongous deficit.”

To labor leaders watching the Clintons for any sign of where the Democratic front-runner will ultimately fall on their No. 1 voting issue, the two statements were seen as part of a tag-team approach in which the Clintons get to have it both ways. After Hillary toggled to the left to appease labor unions, they said, Bill Clinton’s television appearance looked like an attempt to assuage the corporate elites.

We Need A Clear Statement

What Clinton has said so far is good, but not enough. She is signaling and implying and nuanced but not clear and direct. We can read into it whatever we want to hear – which I think says she was probably a very good diplomat as Secretary of State.

But that is not how leaders should communicate with the public.

Fast track essentially pre-approves the still-secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The Senate vote is expected Tuesday. This is the biggest vote that has or will occur in some time, and the results will affect every American, mostly for the worse. It’s great for Wall Street and the giant multinational corporations – the donor class; The Money – but it is bad for the rest of us.

Politically there are few things more important to the activists and informed grassroots types that make up “the base” than stopping fast track and TPP. These are the people who she will want to enthusiastically go door to door and make calls and stuff envelopes and do the footwork of campaigns. Clinton – if she is the nominee – is going to need turnout in the coming election, and that means she needs to give the base and the public reasons to be enthusiastic. After two terms of disappointment in the president who promised “change,” Clinton has to choose between the Wall Street/multinational corporation/billionaire “side” and the rest of us. One side or the other. Today fast track and TPP are that choice.

Stephanie Taylor of PCCC said it best in the Politico story:

Stephanie Taylor, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said all presidential candidates “should urge the Senate to vote no on fast track. Voters need to see that Democratic Party leaders, including Hillary Clinton, are willing to strongly fight corporate interests that seek to hurt workers and everyday families.”

Clinton is still hedging and needs to make a clear statement before Tuesday’s vote in the Senate. She has to say she is for this or she is against it, and as a leading candidate for president she should ask senators to vote for it or against it. And then she should lay out a trade agenda that will work for all of us – but that’s a subject for another post.

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