Hillary Clinton Inches Toward a 'No' on Fast-Track

The Democratic front-runner says she "probably" would not vote for Trade Promotion Authority if she were still in the Senate.

Hillary Clinton gave her most concrete answer yet on trade Thursday night, saying that if she were currently in the Senate she would "probably" not vote for fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal currently being discussed.

"At this point, probably not because it's a process vote and I don't want to say it's the same as TPP," Clinton told Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston in a TV interview for his show, Ralston Reports. Ralston had asked her if she would vote for fast-track authority on the trade deal. "Right now, I'm focused on making sure we get Trade Adjustment Assistance, and I certainly would not vote for it unless I were absolutely confident we would get Trade Adjustment Assistance."

On Thursday, the House passed legislation giving President Obama—who has been advocating for the trade deal—fast-track authority to negotiate the TPP deal with a dozen countries that are included in the proposed deal.

Opposing fast-track would move Clinton away from the economic policies of her husband as well as Obama, but toward a growing majority of Democrats. Only 28 House Democrats voted for Trade Promotion Authority Thursday, while 158 voted against.

The issue of trade in general, and TPP in particular, has dogged Clinton throughout her first two months as an official candidate for president. Other Democrats in the race, especially Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, came out swinging against the Trans-Pacific trade deal earlier this spring and have continued to tout their opposition in the months since.

Meanwhile, Clinton avoided taking a position, saying repeatedly that she would refrain from taking a stand on the deal until it had been fully negotiated and made public. Then, at a rally this past Sunday in Iowa, Clinton said the pending trade deal should be changed to include more protections for American workers.

"In order to get a deal that meets these high standards, the president should listen to and work with his allies in Congress—starting with Nancy Pelosi—who have expressed their concerns about the impact that a weak agreement would have on our workers, to make sure we get the best, strongest deal possible," Clinton said. "And if we don't get it, there should be no deal."