Hillary Clinton takes a stand on trade - kind of

Updated 11:53 AM EDT, Mon June 15, 2015
Hillary Clinton lemonade trade agenda _00004004.jpg
Hillary Clinton lemonade trade agenda _00004004.jpg
Now playing
02:32
Hillary Clinton on trade: Let's turn lemons into lemonade
CBS
Now playing
01:43
Hillary Clinton defends Bill not resigning
CNN
Now playing
02:12
Clinton: Kavanaugh ceremony a political rally
Now playing
01:48
Clinton laughs at Kavanaugh's comment
CBS
Now playing
01:00
Hillary Clinton makes cameo on 'Murphy Brown'
hillary clinton amanpour impeachment_00014522.jpg
hillary clinton amanpour impeachment_00014522.jpg
Now playing
01:47
Clinton: Impeachment 'will be left to others to decide'
hillary clinton republicans amanpour intv vpx_00000000.jpg
hillary clinton republicans amanpour intv vpx_00000000.jpg
Now playing
03:04
Clinton: Civility starts by electing Democrats
Now playing
00:55
Clinton ends Franklin tribute with smartphone
CNN
Now playing
01:49
Clinton rejects Trump comparisons to her husband
Schomburg Center
Now playing
01:58
Bill Clinton: I apologized for Lewinsky scandal
US President Donald Trump (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a meeting in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a meeting in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
04:21
Fact check: Hillary Clinton's misleading comments
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the Eighth Annual Women in the World Summit at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on April 6, 2017, in New York City.
Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the Eighth Annual Women in the World Summit at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on April 6, 2017, in New York City.
Now playing
00:39
Hillary Clinton goes after al-Assad, Putin
AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 17:  Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signs copies of her new book 'What Happened' at BookPeople on November 17, 2017 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Rick Kern/WireImage)
Rick Kern/WireImage/WireImage
AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 17: Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signs copies of her new book 'What Happened' at BookPeople on November 17, 2017 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/WireImage)
Now playing
01:29
Clinton: Trump parrots what Putin says
TV3
Now playing
01:01
Clinton: Children treated as political pawns
Broadway Video/Universal Television
Now playing
01:15
Miley Cyrus tears up thanking Hillary Clinton
RBG on sexism and HRC_00010727.jpg
RBG on sexism and HRC_00010727.jpg
Now playing
01:50
RBG says Clinton was criticized worse than men
Washington CNN —  

Hillary Clinton isn’t helping President Barack Obama salvage a free trade agenda that congressional Democrats are on the verge of wrecking.

But she’s also not taking a position on the trade promotion authority bill, which is crucial to determining whether the linchpin of Obama’s trade effort – the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership – ever gets done.

The Democratic frontrunner – purposefully or not – conflated the two issues in her most extensive remarks yet on trade during a Sunday rally in Des Moines, Iowa. She also implied she’d drive a harder bargain on both than Obama has.

“No president would be a tougher negotiator on behalf of American workers, either with our trade partners or Republicans on Capitol Hill, than I would be,” Clinton said.

RELATED: 8 things we’ve learned about Hillary Clinton’s campaign

She cited House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi by name twice. However, Clinton didn’t weigh in at all on the bill the California Democrat maneuvered to block last week: so-called “trade promotion authority.”

It’s a measure that guarantees trade deals straight up-or-down votes without amendments – key, negotiators say, to getting foreign leaders to take the political risks of making their best offers and signing off on a final agreement.

That bill – not the Trans-Pacific Partnership itself – is what pitted Pelosi against Obama last week.

And if the party succeeds in killing trade promotion authority, Democrats would close the door on the Pacific deal before it’s even finalized.

The intra-party resistance to Obama’s trade efforts was laid bare on Friday when Pelosi-led congressional Democrats stunned the White House and turned against a bill they typically support, which aids displaced workers, because rejecting that bill had the procedural effect of also thwarting Republicans’ push to grant Obama trade promotion authority.

Clinton said that Democratic opposition should strengthen the Obama administration’s hand in talks with the other countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, including Japan, Australia, Canada and Mexico.

“There are some specifics in there that could and should be changed. So I am hoping that’s what happens now – let’s take the lemons and turn it into lemonade,” Clinton said.

But unless Congress grants Obama trade promotion authority, even the most optimistic free trade advocates admit, the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations have no path forward.

Brendan Buck, spokesman for the GOP-led House Ways and Means Committee, tweeted: “Either Clinton isn’t familiar with the very basics of [trade promotion authority] debate or she is being incredibly disingenuous.”

Clinton aides on Sunday downplayed the importance of trade promotion authority, which could come up for another vote in the House this week.

Chief strategist and pollster Joel Benenson said on ABC’s “This Week” that trade promotion authority is “Washington inside baseball about how we get there.”

Campaign manager Robby Mook told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that debate over the bill is “procedures and parliamentary this and that.”

RELATED: Democrats reject Obama on trade

Clinton’s comments on trade came at her first campaign rally in Iowa after shifting her campaign away from small roundtables and toward bigger events, starting a day earlier in New York City.

Clinton has taken fire from liberal opponents like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for her lack of clarity on the issue.

The former first lady said any trade deal should protect U.S. jobs, increase wages and improve the nation’s security.

“In order to get a deal that meets these high standards, the President should listen to and work with his allies in Congress, starting with Nancy Pelosi, who have expressed their concerns about the impact that a weak agreement would have on our workers, to make sure we get the best, strongest deal possible,” she said. “And if we don’t get it, there should be no deal.”

She said that there are “voices, you’ve heard them, that are for the deal no matter what’s in it,” and those whose opposition is unmoving.

“I kind of fall in the group that says let’s find out what’s in it and let’s make it as good as it can be, and then let’s make a decision,” she said.

In the past, Clinton has offered several more specific critiques of the deal.