Sanders Stalls in Effort to Oppose Trade Deal in Platform

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) —

Bernie Sanders failed in his quest to include opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in a draft of the Democratic Party’s policy positions at a meeting Saturday, where several amendments against the deal were voted down by Hillary Clinton supporters.

During a combative meeting in a hotel ballroom, members of the Democratic National Convention’s full Platform Committee voted down amendments to explicitly oppose the deal and to oppose a vote on it in Congress. Instead, they endorsed an amendment that included stronger language governing trade deals, including the TPP.

Sanders and Clinton have come out against the trade deal, but President Barack Obama supports it. Clinton supporters, including labor leaders, believed that toughening the trade language made enough of a statement without directly opposing the president, whom they did not mention during their public comments. The amendment said that trade deals “must protect workers and the environment and not undermine access to critically needed prescription drugs.” It went on to say that Democrats would apply those standards “to all trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

Labor leaders said after the vote that their amendment made clear where they stand on TPP and that they oppose “bad trade deals.” But Sanders backers expressed their frustration with boos and angry shouts.

Sanders supporter Benjamin Jealous, a former president of the NAACP argued that language opposing the TPP would help Democrats win the presidential election in November. “I want us to stop making it harder for us to win and start making it easier for us to win,” he said.

Clinton senior policy adviser Maya Harris said in a statement that Clinton opposes the TPP and is not interested in “tinkering around the margins” of the deal. She added that Clinton believes TPP “fails the test that is now laid out in the platform as a result of this amendment.”

Since Clinton effectively clinched the presidential nomination, the Vermont senator has aggressively campaigned to include his progressive policies in the party platform. He has won a number of concessions, including a win Friday with an amendment calling for increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 over time, indexed to inflation. The previous platform draft had not included explicit language on a $15 federal minimum wage.

The party guidelines also have language endorsing steps to break up large Wall Street banks and urging an end to the death penalty. But Sanders is looking for more before the meeting concludes. He wants the platform to support a carbon tax to address climate change and seek a freeze on hydraulic fracking.

The roughly 15,000-word platform is a nonbinding document that serves as a guidepost for the party. After the Orlando meeting, the document will be voted on at the convention in Philadelphia this month. The Orlando meeting is not the final stop for the Sanders’ efforts. He could seek to revive some of these issues at the convention.

Sanders has so far avoided endorsing Clinton, but appears to be closing in on backing her campaign. He told reporters Saturday that the campaigns are “coming closer and closer together in trying to address the major issues facing this country.”

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