Democrats' infighting over trade pact
puts Clinton in middle
Send a link to a friend
[July 09, 2016]
By Luciana Lopez and Amanda Becker
NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hillary
Clinton has found herself in the middle of a fight within the U.S.
Democratic Party over the Pacific Rim trade pact, between President
Barack Obama, who backs the deal, and opponents whose help is crucial to
her White House bid.
A showdown over trade is expected on Friday and Saturday when Democratic
officials meet in Orlando, Florida, to negotiate language for the
party's 2016 platform, which sets policy priorities intended to guide
campaign messages in the Nov. 8 election.
Different factions of the party are deadlocked over platform language on
the sweeping Trans Pacific Partnership, which Obama hopes to push
through the U.S. Congress later this year.
The current draft, which will be ratified at the July 25-28 Democratic
convention in Philadelphia, acknowledges “a diversity of views” over the
While the platform is not binding for candidates, it is a symbol of a
party’s core values.
Labor unions and other TPP critics have called for a clear condemnation
of the pact, which they fear could lead to steep U.S. job losses in
manufacturing. But some Democrats say that would risk undercutting
U.S. Representative Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, a Clinton appointee to
the platform committee, told the Washington Post that while he had a
long history of opposing trade pacts, he did not want Democrats on the
other side of the issue to think they are not important.
Gutierrez also said he thought "disregarding the position of the
president of the United States" was not right.
The intra-party rift has created a quandary for Clinton, the Democrats'
presumptive nominee. She has staked out opposition to the TPP during her
campaign after supporting it while she was secretary of state in the
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has accused her
of waffling on trade. Trump has strongly condemned the deal, calling it
If Clinton embraces platform language condemning the TPP, it would
please unions while causing difficulties for Obama, one of her most
Moreover, if the platform committee cannot come up with language that
satisfies Bernie Sanders, the U.S. senator from Vermont who had also
sought the nomination and still wields considerable clout, the fight
might drag into the Philadelphia convention and create a messy spectacle
where Democrats will formally nominate Clinton for the White House.
Labor unions told the Clinton campaign of their frustrations in a
closed-door meeting on June 30. One of a series of occasional sessions
to update unions supporting her on campaign staffing, logistics and
other issues, it concluded with a brief question-and-answer session
where AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka asked about the pact.
[to top of second column]
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton smiles during
a campaign rally, where she received the endorsement of U.S.
President Barack Obama, in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., July 5,
2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
"The (platform's) language now is unacceptable,” Hasan Solomon, the
legislative director of the International Association of Machinists
and Aerospace Workers, told Reuters. The machinists were the first
industrial union to endorse Clinton and remain strong backers of her
Union activists aligned with Sanders were even more blunt.
"When I saw the language, my reaction was: ‘What are they
thinking?’” said Rafael Navar, national political director for the
Communications Workers of America, which endorsed Sanders.
“The only way to challenge Trump's appeal to millions of
working-class voters in critical swing states is to be 100 percent
crystal clear on opposing TPP and other job-killing trade deals.”
Many union activists also voiced their opposition to the deal to
Paul Booth, executive assistant to the president of the American
Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, at a private June
1 meeting hosted by the AFL-CIO. Booth is among the platform
drafting committee members suggested by Clinton.
To push for changes to the TPP platform language, Sanders has
encouraged his millions of supporters in emails and texts to
register their dissatisfaction.
But Obama’s support for the deal makes it hard for the party to come
out against it too forcefully, said Jamal Simmons, a Democratic
political consultant with the Raben Group.
Meanwhile, the platform committee expects more amendments to be
offered in Orlando.
“The point of this process,” said committee spokeswoman Dana Vickers
Shelley, "is to hear what people’s concerns are."
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by
Caren Bohan and Lisa Von Ahn)
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.