Democrats reject platform proposal opposing trade deal
Updated: June 24, 2016 — 10:05 PM EDT
by KEN THOMAS, The Associated Press
ST. LOUIS (AP) – Democrats on Friday voted down an amendment to the party’s platform that would have opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, avoiding an awkward scenario that would have put its statement of values at odds with President Barack Obama.
Members of a Democratic National Convention drafting committee defeated a proposal led by Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., that would have added language rejecting the Pacific Rim trade pact, which has been opposed by presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
The panel, which is developing the party’s platform ahead of next month’s Philadelphia convention, instead backed a measure that said “there are a diversity of views in the party” on the TPP and reaffirmed that Democrats contend any trade deal “must protect workers and the environment.”
Allies of Clinton and Sanders pored over the 15,000-word draft of the platform on the first day of a two-day meeting in a St. Louis hotel. It was the result of late nights and long hours of policy exchanges between the two campaigns and the Democratic National Committee, reflecting both the party’s divisions and areas of consensus.
In some cases Clinton’s side gave ground to Sanders. The panel approved language calling for the abolition of the death penalty, calling it “a cruel and unusual form of punishment which has no place” in the nation. Clinton said during a debate earlier this year that it should only be used in limited cases involving “heinous crimes,” while Sanders said the government should not use capital punishment.
Reflecting Sanders’ advocacy, the platform also calls for the expansion of Social Security and says Americans should earn at least a $15 an hour, referring to the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour as a “starvation wage,” a phrase the Vermont senator often uses. Sanders has pushed for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, while Clinton has supported efforts to raise the minimum wage to that level but has said states and cities should raise the bar as high as possible.
Sanders’ allies wanted the draft to specify that the $15 minimum wage should be indexed with inflation. But Clinton’s side struck down the amendment, noting that the document already included a call to “raise and index the minimum wage.”
The committee also adopted language that said it supports a variety of ways to prevent banks from gambling with taxpayers’ bank deposits, “including an updated and modernized version of Glass-Steagall.” Sanders supports reinstating the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which prohibited commercial banks from engaging in investment banking activities. Clinton does not support reinstating the law but said her proposed financial reforms would cast a wider net by regulating the shadow banking system.
Working into the evening, the panel narrowly rejected amendments offered by environmentalist Bill McKibben, a Sanders supporter, that would have imposed a tax on carbon and imposed a national moratorium on fracking.
The document will be debated and revised before the party’s July convention and includes a dozen themes, including sections dealing with the economy, climate change, education, health care, national security and other issues.
On trade, Obama has promoted the TPP despite opposition from rank-and-file Democrats. Members of the panel said it would be wrong to undercut the outgoing president in the platform.
“What I don’t want to do is leave this place disregarding the position of the President of the United States,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., a Clinton supporter who noted his opposition to trade deals.
But Cornel West, a civil rights leader and Sanders supporter, said it was important for the party to take a stand against the trade deal, which Sanders has opposed because of his concerns about the loss of manufacturing jobs.
Sanders, in a statement, said he was “disappointed and dismayed” that the committee would vote down a measure on trade that both he and Clinton supported but added that he was pleased with the proposals on Glass-Steagall and the death penalty.
The panel was expected to consider language on the Israel-Palestinian conflict that has divided some members of the party. The current draft advocates working toward a “two-state solution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict” that guarantees Israel’s security with recognized borders “and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity.”
Clinton has secured enough delegates to receive the Democratic nomination, but Sanders, her primary rival, has said he hopes to influence the platform to reflect the views of his supporters. The platform is a statement of the party’s values and positions on a wide range of issues. While it does not bind the Democratic nominee to stances, it serves as a guidepost for the party moving forward.
Sanders said Friday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he would vote for Clinton. But he has not yet endorsed her or encouraged his supporters to back her campaign. The Vermont senator has said he wants the platform to include many of his positions on income inequality, education and health care.
The convention’s full Platform Committee will consider the draft document in Orlando, Florida, next month.