It's the first big question Hillary Clinton has to answer: Does she oppose the fast-track approval process for the Trans-Pacific Partnership that the Senate agreed to on Thursday?
The procedural deal would give President Obama broad authority to pursue the controversial trade agreement by constricting Congress to a simple up-or-down vote on the final version. The TPP, which involves China, the U.S, and 10 other countries on the Pacific Rim, is set to be the largest trade deal since NAFTA's 1994 passage under President Bill Clinton. It is also a rare moment that has pitted Obama and congressional Republicans against congressional Democrats.
Here's my thinking on what Hillary Clinton will do:
She'll oppose it. She'll say that she's supported the principle in the past, with reservations, but...
She might even say that she isn't sure how she'd vote on the merits yet, but she feels the Senate ought to have a say on things this big, especially precedent-setting compacts between so many nations that involve heavy national security equities.
(I think she hopes the agreement will pass; it would be a nice scene-setter for a new approach to China when she's president.)
Here's the thinking:
1. I think she can afford to throw shade at Wall Street — there's a lot of give there. But she can't afford to get the labor unions riled up this early. Nor can she afford to do something that might actually draw Elizabeth Warren into the race, which could pull Clinton further to the left. Six months from now, after she's built a lot of support, maybe. Now, no.
2. The more liberal money Clinton raises early, the less she'll have to rely on from Wall Street donors down the road, which would be a nice way to get out of feeling like she owes the financial sector some due consideration in exchange for their money. I do not think Clinton would vote against the TTP if she were still in the Senate. Her record on trade agreements suggests that she supports them, and a lot of the objections that she has voiced since NAFTA are fairly well answered in the principles the administration has laid out.
3. It is hard to see how, in an improving economy, the trade deal becomes a huge voting issue for the general election. It is much more politically palatable to take the side of deliberation and scrutiny than the side of, say, Bob Corker (no offense to the fine Senator) right now.
Just an educated guess.