Bernie Sanders loses on trade, wins on minimum wage – CNNPolitics.com
Orlando, Florida (CNN)Hillary Clinton supporters rejected an effort by Bernie Sanders’ allies Saturday to add explicit opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal to the Democratic Party’s 2016 platform.
The setback for Sanders comes after he succeeded in getting the party to support a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage, a major priority for his campaign.
Sanders supporters shouted «shame!» and «fake progressive!» at Clinton backers on the Democratic National Committee’s platform panel here as the party met to finalize its official positions on issues ahead of its convention later this month in Philadelphia.
Some vowed to force a vote on the convention floor on whether to oppose the trade pact in the party’s platform.
It was the biggest point of contention between the two camps, and comes just days before a possible Clinton and Sanders joint event in New Hampshire, where the Vermont senator could endorse his primary rival.
«If it were not for the Sanders campaign, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation,» said pro-Sanders delegate Cornel West, the civil rights activist and philosopher. «We don’t want window dressing in talking about working people.»
By keeping specific opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership out of the platform, Democrats avoided embarrassing President Barack Obama, whose administration has spent most of his two terms negotiating the massive, 12-nation trade deal.
However, the decision also opens up Clinton and other Democrats to questions about whether their opposition to the Pacific Rim pact is sincere.
It’s a politically precarious position as presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump turns decades of Republican pro-trade orthodoxy on its head, regularly railing against the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other free trade deals on the campaign trail.
Democrats approved an amendment to the platform proposed by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union president Lee Saunders, which laid out priorities for trade deals to address, including labor policy, the environment and currency manipulation. «These are standards all Democrats believe should be applied to all trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership,» the amendment said.
But when Ben Jealous, the pro-Sanders delegate and former head of the NAACP, sought a tweak to Saunders’ proposal that would have explicitly stated that those reasons are why Democrats oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, he ran into opposition, as Clinton’s camp — supporting the White House, and led on the floor by Saunders — called it unnecessary.
Jealous pointed to Trump’s stance, saying Democrats face something «we have never seen before — which is a Republican opponent who intends to run clearly against the TPP.»
«We must empower every representative of the Democratic Party to speak clearly against the TPP,» he said.
Jealous added: «Hillary is against the TPP. Bernie is against the TPP. Let’s not be bureaucrats — let’s be leaders.»
None of the pro-Clinton Democrats spoke in favor of the trade deal.
Instead, Saunders sought to cast the party as already unified on trade — even as he opposed the Jealous language.
«We have to open opposition to TPP from both of our candidates running for president of the United States. For once — for once — all Democratic candidates and labor are of one view: No on TPP,» Saunders said.
Minutes later, another pro-Sanders delegate, Jim Hightower, proposed an amendment that specifically denounces the Trans-Pacific Partnership and says Democrats will oppose giving it a vote — even in a lame-duck session of Congress before the next president is sworn in. That, too, was rejected.
It led more than a dozen furious Sanders supporters to walk out of the meeting.
«You don’t care about the people!» one shouted.
The trade fight likely isn’t over. Sanders supporter Jonathan Tasini said «there’s absolutely no doubt» that his side will file a «minority report» calling for a vote against the Trans-Pacific Partnership on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. That mechanism, which Sanders has enough votes to use, will force another trade debate, with all of the convention’s delegates able to vote.
Sanders prevails on minimum wage
The trade battle was one major loss in a weekend that has included several victories for Sanders.
Democrats amended their platform late Friday to call for a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage — a Sanders priority from the outset of his 2016 campaign.
The amendment calls for the change «over time» — less specific language than Sanders had wanted, making it a concession for Clinton.
But it is much more specific than the previous draft of the platform, which said Americans «should earn more than $15 an hour» but didn’t mention the federal minimum wage specifically.
The amendment calling for the $15-an-hour federal minimum wage was introduced by former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, a Sanders supporter.
Mary Kay Henry, the international president of the Service Employees International Union, proposed adding language that included the phrase «over time.»
Both were adopted without a fight — the product of hours of negotiations between the Clinton and Sanders camps at an Orlando hotel on the first day of the two-day meeting.
The minimum wage language pushes Clinton left of the position she’s taken on the campaign trail. She has supported a $12-an-hour federal minimum wage, as well as local efforts to set higher minimum wages in places like New York and California.
Clinton backs public option on health care
Clinton on Saturday also expressed support for expanding taxpayer-funded health insurance, in a nod to the desires of Sanders’ supporters. She affirmed support for the so-called «public option,» which would expand health insurance coverage beyond the current provisions in Obamacare.
Clinton has supported the public option for decades. But she ran in the Democratic primary as a candidate who wanted to expand Obamacare and used Sanders’ support for a public option against him, saying it would be too costly and run into interference from Republican governors.
«We have more work to do to finish our long fight to provide universal, quality, affordable health care to everyone in America,» Clinton said in a statement released by her campaign. «Already, the Affordable Care Act has expanded coverage to 20 million Americans. As president, I will make sure Republicans never succeed in their attempts to strip away their care and that the remaining uninsured should be able to get the affordable coverage they need to stay healthy.»
Clinton also called for allowing people 55 years and older to be able to enroll in Medicare. Currently, the typical age for enrollment is 65.
On a conference call, Sanders called it «an important step forward in expanding health care in America and expanding health insurance and health care access to tens of millions of Americans. I congratulate Secretary Clinton for this extremely important initiative. It will save lives, it will ease suffering.»
Marijuana legalization pathway approved
The biggest cheers of the day came when the platform committee voted 81-80 for platform language calling for a «reasonable pathway to future legalization» of marijuana.
The panel also approved criminal justice language endorsed by both campaigns — with Jealous making the pitch for Sanders and Ben Crump, the lawyer for Trayvon Martin’s family, for Clinton’s side.
It calls for the mandatory use of police body cameras, and says Democrats will «stop the use of weapons of war that have no place in our communities.» The platform doesn’t detail what it classifies as «weapons of war.»
It also calls for the Justice Department to investigate all «questionable or suspicious» police shootings.
Still up at the Democratic platform meeting in Orlando are potentially contentious fights over issues like fracking and a carbon tax.
The platform gathering in Orlando comes ahead of Sanders’ expected joint appearance with Clinton in New Hampshire on Tuesday.
Asked whether that meeting would happen, and whether there are plans for further joint events, Sanders said: «We look forward to continue working with the Clinton campaign and we’ll have more to say as to where we go forward in the near future.»
CNN’s Eugene Scott and Dan Merica contributed to this report.