Hillary Clinton is out of patience for her Republican rivals and their opposition to an export-assistance program. But she still isn’t taking a position on a Pacific trade deal that has become politically linked to the Export-Import Bank’s renewal.
The Democratic Presidential candidate on Friday unloaded on her GOP foes, calling them cowards who do not make up their own minds and default to the loudest and most extreme voices in the party. The former Secretary of State told an invite-only crowd in Hampton, N.H.. that Americans’ jobs are in the balance, and Republicans would rather scuttle workers’ paychecks than to tell the truth about the Export-Import Bank, which provides financing for U.S. exports.
Clinton said the bank’s opponents are looking to score political points and are shameless panderers “who really should know better.” She did not single out any of her GOP rivals by name, but Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul have all opposed keeping the agency around.
“Across our country, the Export-Import Bank supports up to 164,000 jobs,” Clinton said. “It is wrong that Republicans in Congress are trying to cut off this vital lifeline for American small businesses. … They would rather threaten the livelihoods of those 164,000 jobs rather than stand up to the tea party and talk radio.”
The agency is a favorite target of small-government tea party activists, who claim it is corporate welfare for giant corporations like Boeing. The bank has been a flashpoint for conservatives and it almost lost its charter in 2012 and again last year. Lawmakers secured a nine-month extension for the bank last year, but conservatives are pushing to let the lender’s authority expire this summer.
But complicating the delicate negotiations is a trade deal with Pacific nations that President Obama is seeking. Some Democrats—especially those in the party’s liberal wing—oppose the measure.
Clinton backed the trade deal when she was at the State Department but has remained uncommitted on the issue since she entered the presidential race. She says she wants to see the final terms of the deal before deciding to endorse it or not.
“We don’t yet know all the details,” Clinton told reporters on Friday. “I have some real concerns.”
She said she would need to be assured that currency manipulation is blocked, that the standards would be enforceable and that labor and environment protections are adequate.
“I’ve been for trade agreements. I’ve been against trade agreements. I’ve voted for some. I’ve voted against others,” she said. “I want to judge this when I see what exactly is in it.”