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White House Cheers Debate, but Disagrees With Clinton on TPP

(Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The White House cheered the Democrats who participated in Tuesday’s presidential debate, but noted its differences with Hillary Rodham Clinton on trade.  

“It was encouraging to see Democratic candidates putting forward their own vision and values and priorities for the country, in large part vowing to build on the important progress that’s been made over the last seven years,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday at his daily press briefing.

As for Clinton opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement without having read it yet — the text still hasn’t been released — Earnest said, “Yeah, I noticed that, too.”

More broadly, Earnest said “we strongly disagree” with Clinton and the other candidates who oppose the TPP, saying it would raise worker standards, lower taxes on exports and counter China. And he kept noting that the administration has spent five years negotiating the deal, which dates back to Clinton’s tenure as secretary of State.

Clinton in 2012 referred to the TPP as the “gold standard” of trade agreements and she talked it up in her book “Hard Choices.”

Earnest otherwise spoke positively of Clinton’s performance, but left room for Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to get into the race.

“I don’t think there’s anybody who is surprised that Secretary Clinton performed well on the debate stage,” Earnest said. “Many of us who worked on the president’s campaign in 2007 and 2008 saw firsthand that she was — that she’s an effective debater. … I’m also confident it was not a surprise to either the president or the vice president, both of whom participated in those debates. So they know firsthand as well.  

“The second thing I would observe is Vice President Biden, I think, has been quite candid about the fact that the decision that he has to make about a presidential campaign is rooted in a decision about his own presidential campaign, not anybody else’s. And I take him at his word when he says that,” Earnest said.  

Biden, at an appearance earlier Wednesday, didn’t set a timeline for his own decision and praised the Democrats who debated. “I thought everyone of those folks did well,” he said.  

Earnest’s talking points:  

• Declined to endorse a return to the Glass-Steagall Act, which regulated banking, something pushed by former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley during Tuesday’s debate.  

• Said he hopes Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, will raise the debt limit without drama or delay.  

• Confirmed that budget talks are ongoing but declined to discuss details.  

• And acknowledged Obama might change his mind about leaving troops in Afghanistan  beyond the end of his term.


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