Let’s recap. Hillary Clinton spent three of her four years as Secretary of State negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), publicly endorsing the effort at least forty-five times, as Jake Tapper reminds us. Her work on TPP has put Barack Obama in position to negotiate the final agreement, something Hillary herself was apparently unable to accomplish. Now, after all that and after working for Obama for four years, Hillary has finally taken a stand against giving Obama full trade promotion authority (TPA) to fast-track a treaty to the Senate.
Hillary Rodham Clinton said she would “probably not” vote for fast-track authority for the trade deal that President Obama is seeking, but she acknowledged that she once said positive things about “the potential” for the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
Probably not? Wow. Way to take a tough stand, Secretary Clinton. That’s probably somewhat like leadership. It will probably impress dozens of people, too.
Jon Ralston, whom Hillary kept calling “Joe” for some reason, pressed her on why she’d probably commit to not taking an action if the agreement was so good as late as January 2013:
“I said positive things about the process and the potential,” said Mrs. Clinton, who occasionally called Mr. Ralston “Joe” during the interview.
“Some people don’t like any trade agreement, and some people are willing to take any trade agreement,” she said. Asked whether she would vote in favor of fast-track authority if she were still in the Senate, Mrs. Clinton replied, “Probably not, because that’s a process vote, and I don’t want to say that’s the same as T.P.P.”
Nonsense. All TPA does is allow for Obama to finalize the treaty and get an up-or-down vote in the Senate. It’s all about the TPP, and even opponents of TPA understand that. After all, TPA is hardly unprecedented — Congress has routinely granted such authority to presidents of both parties when it comes to trade agreement negotiations, and this still leaves the Senate with the option to reject ratification. The issue for TPA opponents isn’t the authority, but the treaty itself and what it might eventually contain.
If TPP is as good as Hillary has repeatedly claimed, then TPA doesn’t matter. Democrats don’t trust Obama that TPP is a good deal, nor do they trust Hillary’s forty-five endorsements of it either. That’s not a “process” issue, it’s a credibility issue — and neither Obama or Hillary have much of it any longer. Probably.
Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell will force Democrats to choose a little more explicitly than Hillary’s “probably” this week:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is daring Senate Democrats to vote against fast-track trade legislation they supported less than a month ago.
The GOP leader has scheduled a procedural vote on fast-track for Tuesday, and is signaling he’s through offering concessions.
The Kentucky Republican believes he’ll get the 11 Democratic votes he needs to move forward because pro-trade Senate Democrats have already gone out on a limb to support fast-track — despite the cries of organized labor and other groups on the left.
McConnell also reasons that the Senate Democrats, having already voted once for fast-track, won’t want to thrust the dagger into President Obama’s prized legislative goal.
“Democrats already voted for TPA. This is what everybody already voted for,” said one Senate Republican leadership aide, referring to trade promotion authority, another name for fast-track.
Will he get 11 Democrats for TPA? The odds seem somewhat short of probably. McConnell may need a few more than that, though, since he’s likely to lose a few Republicans on the second round. Progressive Democrats want more concessions after losing the Trade Adjustment Authority (TAA) package in the deal, such as an extension on the Export-Import Bank, but McConnell will instead bring the House version to the floor for an up-or-down vote. On the last round, only 14 Democrats went along for the TPA ride, and Senators like Patty Murray, Dianne Feinstein, and Michael Bennet might already be rethinking their position in the face of progressive outrage.