For a moment on Thursday, Hillary Clinton seemed poised to make a definitive statement against Trade Promotion Authority, or Fast Track, the controversial legislation that would grant President Barack Obama the power to force pro-corporate agreements through Congress without allowing input or amendments from lawmakers.
But she didn't.
Speaking to Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston in a televised interview Thursday night, the 2016 presidential candidate said she "probably" would not vote for Fast Track "at this point," and that "I certainly would not vote for it unless I were absolutely confident we would get Trade Adjustment Assistance [TAA]."
TAA is designed to provide support for workers who lose their jobs as a result of the offshoring created by deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the secretive international corporate investment proposal currently making its way through Congress. Lori Wallach, director of the Global trade Watch program at the progressive advocacy group Public Citizen, has previously explained (pdf) that TPP and similar "NAFTA-style" agreements "will kill more American jobs in the first place, especially given our high unemployment rates."
On Thursday, just hours before Clinton made her comments to Ralston, the House of Representatives passed Fast Track—sending the legislation back to the Senate, where its fate remains unclear as many Democrats had previously insisted it include TAA.
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Some media outlets saw Clinton's comments as her strongest stance yet on the issue of trade, which has dogged her presidential campaign as opponents point out her deep personal ties to Wall Street lobbyists and foreign oligarchies.
But progressives were unimpressed. Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, told Politico on Thursday that all presidential candidates "should urge the Senate to vote no on fast track. Voters need to see that Democratic Party leaders, including Hillary Clinton, are willing to strongly fight corporate interests that seek to hurt workers and everyday families."
And as The Intercept's Lee Fang reported on Thursday, Clinton's campaign "is partnering with a pro-TPP/TPA law and lobby firm to raise cash."
Campaign for America's Future blogger Dave Johnson explained earlier this month that Clinton's continued evasion of questions on Fast Track is "a political calculation, trying to stay on the fence between the donor/corporate/elite class and the 'base' of working people and progressives trying to do something about the terrible inequality that is killing the middle class and our democracy."
"But this is an either/or line," Johnson wrote. "You can't be on both sides of this dividing line. You are either for Wall Street, the giant corporations and the billionaires—or you are on the side of the rest of us."
Observers have also called attention to Fast Track's indivisible connection to TPP as a reason that Clinton has kept silent on the issue.
During a campaign stop in Iowa last month, Clinton said she would reserve her opinion on the TPP until negotiations are completed.