Sunday, July 10, 2016

Health care unites, TPP trade deal divides

Clinton's health plan praised by Sanders reports: Sanders Says He Helped Develop Clinton's Health Care Plan.

The move toward unifying the Democratic Party behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continued Saturday.

Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, is calling for a large expansion in funds for community health centers, as well as public options for insurance coverage.

"Hillary will pursue efforts to give Americans in every state in the country the choice of a public-option insurance plan, and to expand Medicare by allowing people 55 years or older to opt in while protecting the traditional Medicare program," the campaign announced in a fact sheet released Saturday.

That move drew praise from Sanders.

Sanders said he and Clinton were, "coming closer and closer together in trying to address the major issues addressing this country."

In a Saturday news conference, he would not confirm reports that he was planning to appear with Clinton on Tuesday at an event in New Hampshire or elsewhere on the campaign trail. But he didn't do anything to tamp down the speculation, either.

"I think we have made some real progress in terms of revolutionizing the funding of higher education in America and lowering the level of student debt. And I applaud Secretary Clinton very much for that proposal, which she released last week. I think today's proposal is a very significant way of moving toward universal primary health care," 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."

That "more to say" may address a remaining issue: Unified opposition to the TPP but no specific language to that effect in the platform.

"Leave no doubt that we are against the TPP”

That was what Ben Jealous, former NAACP president, wanted.

But doubt remained in the minds of labor leaders in Orlando. John Nichols reports on the contention over the TPP, Democrats Toughen Trade Stance—but Reject Formal Opposition to the TPP. Here is a short version.

... Saturday’s contentious consideration of a series of amendment proposals began with a key Clinton backer, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees President Lee Saunders, acknowledging that, of all the platform issues being considered, trade policy could well be “the subject to which ordinary Americans are paying the closest attention.” Saunders offered an amendment to add strong language declaring that trade agreements “must not undermine democratic decision making through special privileges and private courts for corporations, and trade negotiations must be transparent and inclusive. Democrats’ priority is to significantly strengthen enforcement of existing trade rules and strengthen the tools we have, including by holding countries accountable on currency manipulation and significantly expanding enforcement resources.” Outlining labor, environment and currency manipulation standards, and calling for “streamlined and effective enforcement mechanisms” that “protect workers and the environment,” the amendment insisted that “These are standards all Democrats believe should be applied to all trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

“We take what Trump has used as a soundbite, and we turn it into a standard,” declared American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten. Several labor representatives speaking in Orlando highlighted the importance of the standards, which proponents said could be applied to the TPP in this and future congresses. The Saunders amendment drew strong backing from the Clinton camp and some support from Sanders representatives on the committee, winning by a 117-64 vote. A statement from AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka described the amended language as “a major milestone,” but added that “the threat of unfair agreements, including TPP remains. We will continue to point out TPP’s fundamental flaws and mobilize to defeat it, and any trade deals that don’t work for working people.”

Jealous offered an amendment to the amendment. “I just want to add the words: ‘That’s why we oppose the TPP.’”

His amendment failed. Other members of the platform committee argued for more explicit language on practical political grounds.

,,, Texas populist Jim Hightower offered a more detailed Sanders-backed amendment that sought to put the party on record in opposition to the TPP—which he decried as “a corporate-empowerment deal”—in the current and future congresses. Arguing that working families in swing states will not be satisfied by “soft words,” Hightower said, “Using lame language tells them we will not stand with them.”

Hightower noted that Trump has made it clear that he will campaign against the TPP and the failed trade agreements of the past in Ohio, North Carolina, and other swing states, and warned, “He is going to hammer Hillary mercilessly on…wimpy language in her platform.” Hightower’s message did not prevail, as his amendment was defeated 104-71.

Sanders supporters—some of whom spoke of raising the TPP issue at the party convention in Philadelphia by filing a “minority report” that would force a floor debate—were frustrated. That frustration was rooted in concerns about both policy and practical politics.

Explaining that Trump “intends to run clearly against the TPP,” Jealous said it was vital to give grassroots Democratic campaigners and candidates across the country a tool for winning economic debates: “We must empower them to say, clearly: the Democratic Party, through its platform, is on record as being opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

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