Hillary Clinton-backer Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D., Va) asked President Obama on Monday what he can do to lobby Congress to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) despite the fact that Clinton now opposes the trade deal after she previously was a strong advocate for it.
Obama was delivering remarks to the National Governors Association when McAuliffe, an ardent supporter of Clinton’s bid for the White House, stood up to ask the president how he can help get TPP passed.
"We all have different interests in our states, but one issue that brings a lot of us together is the issue of trade," McAuliffe said to Obama. "Trade is critical to grow our economies. So Mr. President, can you give us an update on the trade policy [TPP], where the legislation is, and most importantly, what can we do to help you push trade with the Congress?"
The TPP is a trade agreement between 12 Pacific Rim countries, including the United States, that was signed by ministers from all participating nations in Auckland, New Zealand on Feb. 4 after years of negotiations. The agreement has not made it through the U.S. Congress to be signed by the president, however.
The massive trade deal has been a lightning rod issue that has forged unlikely political faultlines on the bill. President Obama and his administration have supported the legislation and fought hard to pass TPP while much of the Democratic Party opposes the agreement, including prominent lawmakers like Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.).
Hillary Clinton was a strong supporter of TPP when she served as secretary of state and pushed the trade bill at least 45 times in recent years. For example, she said in November 2010 that "this TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field. And when negotiated, this agreement will cover 40 percent of the world's total trade and build in strong protections for workers and the environment."
After announcing that she was running for president, however, Clinton changed her tone on TPP, refusing to take a clear position on the deal and saying she needs more time to study the text of the agreement.
On Oct. 7, Clinton officially came out against TPP, telling PBS’ Judy Woodruff that, "as of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about [TPP]." She also said, "I have said from the very beginning that we had to have a trade agreement that would create good American jobs, raise wages and advance our national security and I still believe that is the high bar we have to meet," and added, "I don't believe it's going to meet the high bar I have set."
PolitiFact rated Clinton's change in position as a "Full Flop."
It is unclear why she switched her position so starkly, but critics of Clinton argue she decided to oppose TPP because it was politically convenient for her as the Democratic base mainly opposes the deal.
Clinton's challenger in the Democratic primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt), a self-declared socialist who opposes the trade deal, has criticized Clinton for changing her stances on a variety of issues, including TPP, arguing it shows she is a flip-flopper who acts out of political calculus and lacks principles.
McAuliffe is a close ally of Clinton’s, and his name has even been floated as a possible vice presidential candidate with her.