Hillary Clinton has signaled that if she is elected president she would oppose a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership
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Hillary Clinton has signaled that if she is elected president in November she would oppose a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord during a lame-duck session of Congress, sharpening her differences with President Obama as he is ramping up his sales pitch on behalf of the deal.
Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner, responded in writing to a question on the lame-duck session from a coalition of Oregon labor unions and environmental groups by stating: “I oppose the TPP agreement — and that means before and after the election.”
Opponents of the pact said Clinton’s response on the questionnaire, coming ahead of Oregon’s Democratic primary on May 17, represents a more definitive statement of opposition to the 12-nation Pacific Rim accord than she has given before. It could present new hurdles for the Obama administration, which is viewing a likely brief session of Congress after the Nov. 8 election as its last chance to get the deal ratified by lawmakers before the president leaves office in January.
Clinton supported and promoted the TPP while serving as secretary of state, but she has moved to the left in a hard-fought primary campaign against Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), who has long railed against U.S. trade pacts. Sanders also opposed a lame-duck vote, telling the Oregon Fair Trade coalition: “Holding a vote on the TPP during a ‘lame duck’ session would be going against the will of the people.”
Business leaders, including U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue, have said they believe Clinton will support the TPP if she wins the general election.
He expects a vote after the November elections and said that election-year pressures will force the Senate to vote on TPP during a lame-duck session to protect several vulnerable Republican incumbents.
“It’s going to be the closest vote for Senate in a long, long time, and there are four or five people that are running that are in the Republican caucus that would be at risk, perhaps, if they voted for it right now, today,” Donohue predicted that the House could vote sooner.
“I would encourage that because it will be hard to cram two votes into a lame-duck [session],” he said.
The presidential election has put a spotlight on trade, with the most likely nominees delivering harsh critiques on free-trade agreements.”In a tough economy, in an election year, nobody is in favor of trade,” Donohue said. But he emphasized that the pro-trade lobby needs only one vote to win.
“We don’t care how many we win by, we only care that we win,” he said.
The Chamber and the Obama administration are in discussions with Congress on building enough support to pass the TPP deal.
Donohue said that the Chamber’s members are spending a lot of time on Capitol Hill, and there are major efforts by chambers around the country.
“We’re letting them know what we think is important,” he said about lawmakers.
“They can say what they have to say. They have to vote the way we need them to vote, and half of them can take a walk as long as we get two plus one.”
He said that the agreement is most favorable to agriculture and technology sectors and that he expects a fix for the pharmaceutical industry on intellectual property protections for high-tech drugs called biologics, but the deal won’t be reopened for changes.
“We’re not going to renegotiate it,” Donohue said. “But the history of trade agreements is when you find it all, you’ve finished it and they write it all down and there are a few things we’ve got to fix,” he said. “And that’s the case here. I think you will see some of that.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the White House is in talks with both parties on Capitol Hill about how to move the TPP forward.
“So I don’t have details of those conversations to share, but we certainly are interested in working in bipartisan fashion on Capitol Hill to build bipartisan support for this agreement,” Earnest said. “We certainly believe that it deserves it.”
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