If Hillary Clinton is looking to show the Democratic Party’s liberal wing that she’s ready to be tough on Wall Street as president, her choice of running mate may not help much.
In selecting Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia over progressive favorites such as Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts or Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Clinton is partnering with a lawmaker whose stances on finance and trade policies have sparked backlash from some of her most persistent critics.
After a bruising primary campaign in which Bernie Sanders threatened her front-runner status by painting her as a friend of the financial industry, Clinton faced pressure from within the party to show her willingness to hold banks accountable. The decision to pick Kaine seems to leave her with work to do on that front.
"She’s going to have to give them something else," according to Karen Shaw Petrou, managing partner of research firm Federal Financial Analytics. That could mean taking more aggressive positions on financial issues or, if she wins, filling administration positions with left-leaning candidates, Petrou said.
Liberal opposition to Kaine began to emerge with media reports that he was on Clinton’s shortlist for the vice presidential nomination. Earlier this week, progressive groups expressed outrage after the first-term senator joined a group of Democratic lawmakers asking bank regulators to consider easing capital requirements for large regional banks.
Kaine also supported a bipartisan effort to urge the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to ease some rules for smaller banks. And his vote in favor of giving the Obama administration more leeway in sealing a trade deal with 12 Pacific Rim nations also has rankled progressives.
His "support for fast-track authority for the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership and recent backing of bank deregulation will make our work more difficult," said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America. He said he was referring to efforts to unite the "political revolution with the Democratic establishment to defeat Trump."
Kaine also disappointed groups seeking Wall Street changes last year when he supported a bill aimed at spurring investment in start-ups that the group Americans for Financial Reform said would undermine regulators’ ability to enforce rules.
Like Clinton, Kaine has moderated some of his language on trade. When he was Virginia’s governor in 2007, he said that advocates of protectionism have a "loser’s mentality."
Since joining the Senate in 2013, he has drawn criticism for siding with President Barack Obama -- against most fellow Democrats -- in backing "fast track" legislation that could be used to expedite completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement signed by the U.S. and other Pacific Rim countries.
Kaine, who said he agreed to back fast-track authority only after getting assurances that workers’ rights would be protected, has said he is weighing whether to vote for ratification of the final accord.
"We have guaranteed funding for workers whose jobs are negatively affected by global trade," he said in defending his vote on fast-track authority. "We have passed a series of strong trade enforcement measures. And we have reauthorized an important bill to help trade with developing nations."
He said his support for the fast-track measure "is not a blind endorsement of any pending trade negotiation or deal," and that he would make sure specifics of any final deal are public and fully debated.
Clinton herself turned against the Trans-Pacific deal amid opposition from Sanders and pressure from labor unions who say trade pacts have cut U.S. manufacturing jobs. She had praised the negotiations while serving as Obama’s secretary of state. Independent political fact-checker PolitFact has rated her reversal as a "full flop."
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, meanwhile, has campaigned on sharp criticism of trade agreements and suggested his message may appeal to disaffected Democrats.
Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said Friday that Kaine’s support of fast track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership has given Republicans "a new opening to attack Democrats on this economic populist issue."
"It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP," Taylor said. "It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues."
Paul Brace, a political scientist at Rice University in Houston, said Clinton’s choice of Kaine, in the short run, "may disappoint the Bernie supporters who want a more progressive VP."
Even so, Brace said, "Bernie supporters will have a choice, while not their optimal choice, as Clinton seems to be tacking to the center on the premise that the left won’t possibly jump to Trump on trade."
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