Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernard Sanders on Sunday jabbed rival Hillary Rodham Clinton for remaining silent on a major trade deal that is a top priority of President Obama but is fiercely opposed by the left and is in jeopardy in Congress.
Mr. Sanders, a Vermont senator who proudly calls himself a socialist and is the only declared challenger to Mrs. Clinton for the Democratic nomination, has led the effort to nix the 12-country trade deal with Pacific Rim countries.
“You can’t be on the fence on this one. You are either for it or you’re against it,” Mr. Sanders said, referring to Mrs. Clinton during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“No fence-sitting on this one,” he declared.
Mrs. Clinton has kept on the sidelines during debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), trying to walk a fine line between remaining loyal to the president for whom she served as secretary of state and placating the Democratic Party’s liberal base that opposes the agreement.
Senate Democrats last week blocked a bill that would give Mr. Obama fast-track authority for trade agreement, which would have made it much easier for him to pass TPP. A Senate deal revived the bill, but it faces an uphill battle to survive Democratic opposition in the House.
Mrs. Clinton enjoys a huge lead in the polls and remains the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination, but Mr. Sanders is attempting to rally the left.
He said the trade deal strikes at the heart of the issues that dominate the left’s agenda, such as income inequality.
“Here’s the reality: When we talk about why the middle class is disappearing and why the gap between the very, very rich and everybody else is growing wider, you have to talk about disastrous trade agreements that have allowed corporate America to shut down in this country and move to China, Mexico and other low-wage countries,” he said.