Despite a weekend of headlines proclaiming the vote Friday that temporarily stalled ObamaTrade a major defeat for President Obama, democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton finally took a position on the group of measures she in part negotiated during her time as Secretary of State.
“The president has this amazing opportunity right now,” Clinton said at a rally in Iowa.
“There are some specifics in there that can and should be changed,” she said of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
“Let’s take the lemons and turn it into lemonade. Let’s find out what’s in it and make it as good as it can be.”
“The president should listen to and work with his allies in Congress, especially Nancy Pelosi,” she said of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “If I were in the White House, that’s what I’d be doing right now.”
“No president would be a tougher negotiator on behalf of American workers with our trading partners and Republicans on Capitol Hill than I would be.”
Strategically, Clinton’s statement pulled off a bit of political gymnastics she has often been criticized for: the ability to appeal to both sides of a position so as to simultaneously appear to be both “for” and “against” something.
By wording her critique of Obama in the way she has, she is trying to avoid alienating those on the far-left by seeming to admit that ObamaTrade needs improvement.
Conversely she is not running away from ObamaTrade, which could have been a cudgel to be used by opponents on both sides of the aisle.
When Obama made his appearance on Capitol Hill Friday he was dutifully escorted to a closed door meeting with democrats by Pelosi, who was smiling every step of the way (unless her face is just stuck like that). Not exactly what you expect from someone who was about to stab the other person in the back.
Instead, it is likely that in that closed meeting the democratic caucus discussed sandbagging Friday’s vote so that–similar to Clinton’s statement Sunday–they could appeal to both sides of the spectrum.
In what is likely to go down in history as only a “show vote” vulnerable members could feign opposition to ObamaTrade by voting against it, while the slimmest possible number as needed would still vote for “fast track”. Now that fast track has been approved the House only needs to pass Trade Assistance Authority (TAA)–a program with overwhelming democratic support–to reconcile the last remaining portion of the already passed Senate version of ObamaTrade.
Expect to see a compromise develop on TAA soon and a final vote on ObamaTrade in quick succession. It is basically a foregone conclusion that President Obama is going to get what he wants here.[The Hill]