Tim Kaine's Stance On The Trans-Pacific Partnership Just Changed To Match Hillary Clinton's
Recently named vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine has changed his position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, according to a source inside the Clinton campaign. A Clinton aide leaked to CBS News that the Virginia senator, who just joined the Democratic ticket last week, is reversing his previous support for the controversial trade deal to match Clinton's position more closely.
Just two days before the announcement, Kaine was praising the deal for its provisions, which many Democrats say aren't strong enough to bring necessary change to the international community. "I am having discussions with a lot of groups around Virginia about the treaty itself. I see much in it to like,” Kaine said Thursday at a public event. “I think it's an upgrade of labor standards, I think it's an upgrade of environmental standards, I think it's an upgrade of intellectual property protections."
But now he's retracting that support. The switch-up is a big shift for Kaine, who took bold steps in the Senate to help pass the deal. Kaine was one of the 13 Democratic senators who voted to give President Obama "fast tracking" powers to get the bill through Congress, a strong show of support for the trade deal that went against the majority of the party. Last May, after that vote passed the Senate the first time, Kaine released a press statement praising the trade deal.
"I am pleased that the Senate today completed the passage of four related trade bills," read the statement. "We have given the President the same power to negotiate trade deals that has been provided to every President since 1974. In a Virginia that was founded to promote trade and that still maintains an aggressive and optimistic global posture, these bills will help our workers, companies and farms find new export customers."
As abrupt and full circle as it may be, the change to Kaine's position isn't particularly surprising. Clinton and Kaine have to present a united front, and the TPP has been an unexpectedly hot button issue in this election. Sanders supporters, whom Clinton is still fighting to win over, vehemently opposed to deal, and Kaine's apparent change in opinion may have a placating effect for those who were hesitant to throw their support behind the new VP nom.
Yet, this could still end up backfiring for Clinton. Kaine was chosen over more liberal candidates specifically for his foreign policy experience, and the TPP is a center point of Clinton's international agenda. His previous position puts him at a disadvantage for lobbying Congress to reject the deal before the end of President Obama's term, and if the deal passes before the election, Clinton could see her polling numbers tank in response.
Few might have guessed that the TPP would end up as contentious an issue in this election as it has been, but the importance of the deal, and therefore the importance of the Democratic position, has taken centerstage this year. Kaine's shifting view on the TPP is more likely to hurt Clinton than help her, but the relatively unknown politician may surprise the country with a bold new direction on the vexing trade deal.