This comes after Clinton came out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal yesterday, which Sanders has been attacking since he entered the Democratic primary. Clinton also recently came out against the Keystone pipeline, another Sanders target. As Chris Cillizza remarks, Clinton seems to be working to ensure that there is very little policy distance between the two of them.
To understand why, just look at Sanders’ comments on Morning Joe today:
“In the last 30 years, there has been a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class and working families of this country to the top one-tenth of one percent. And yes, my policies will demand that the top one percent at the largest corporations in this country start paying their fair share in taxes….“Real unemployment today is 10 percent. Youth unemployment is 30, 40, 50 percent. I believe we should rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, invest $1 trillion into our roads, bridges, water systems, rail, airports, and create up to 13 million jobs. I believe we should raise the minimum wage over a period of several years…to $15 an hour and have pay equity for women workers. I believe that we have to revise our disastrous trade policies so corporate America invests in this country, rather than in China.“In terms of Wall Street, three out of the four largest banks today are bigger than they were when we bailed them out because they were two big to fail. I think we should reestablish Glass Steagall. I think we should eventually break up these large financial institutions, which today have too much economic and political power.”
This prompted Joe Scarborough to remark: “He’s really good.” Yes, he is. Sanders’ message is clear: Skyrocketing inequality is an urgent threat to the country. It’s the result of deep and intractable structural problems with the economy that require correction through major government intervention — via unabashedly redistributive policies that include big tax hikes on the wealthy to fund massive social investments. Our economic problems are enormous and call for major structural change. Nibbling around the edges just won’t do.
What is now clear from Sanders’ candidacy is that there is a very real and durable constituency inside the Democratic Party behind this diagnosis and the need for extremely ambitious policies to address it.
And yet, according to the Journal report, the new Clinton proposals will not embrace some of the key goals sought by Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, such as breaking up the big banks or reinstating a Glass Steagall wall between commercial and investment banking. Nor is Clinton likely to embrace a $15 minimum wage or $1 trillion in new infrastructure spending.
As Cillizza also notes, polls show that despite the Sanders surge, Clinton is doing quite well among liberals, so we still really know what will happen in Iowa and New Hampshire. And at any rate, polls continue to show Clinton holding a solid lead in contests coming after Iowa and New Hampshire, where her more diverse and moderate coalition could kick in to give her the advantage. So, yes, Clinton appears worried about this very real Sanders constituency and its demand for a candidate who will not flinch from embracing very ambitious, forthrightly redistributive government action. But she doesn’t appear worried enough about it to come even close to fully embracing the Sanders/Warren agenda.
* WILL BIDEN REALLY MAKE ‘LATE ENTRY’? The hot take of the moment is that Joe Biden could still make a late entry into the race, if Bernie Sanders beats Hillary Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire, and Dems panic about Sanders becoming the nominee. But the New York Times reports that Dem strategists think Biden would have a tough time peeling off Clinton supporters in the late February and March contests, because Clinton still remains very popular among minorities.
I don’t know if Biden will run, and neither does anyone else. But the search for creative scenarios designed to keep alive the possibility of a Biden entry is getting a bit silly at this point.
* CONSERVATIVES THREATEN TO UPEND RACE FOR SPEAKER: Mike DeBonis reports that House conservatives are rallying behind an alternative to Kevin McCarthy as a replacement for John Boehner, pushing instead for a little known Florida Republican. Their candidate won’t win, but:
Regardless, the endorsement gives the caucus tremendous leverage to force McCarthy or any other candidate into adopting procedural changes and policy positions favored by conservatives ahead of the decisive floor vote.
Uh oh. Conservatives will demand that McCarthy commit to refusing to raise the debt limit without substantial concessions from Obama and Democrats. That will be fun.
* OBAMA ADMINISTRATION’S MARKER ON DEBT LIMIT: With Republicans likely to demand concessions in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew lays down the administration’s bottom line in an interview with NPR:
“We’ve always said if it’s easier to combine it with something else that’s mutually acceptable, that’s a form question…That’s for Congress to decide. We’ve told them they need to raise the debt limit. If combining a couple of things together that are on their way towards approval, makes it easier— what they can’t do is, it can’t be used to extract an unacceptable policy commitment.”
In other words, Republicans will not be given unilateral concessions by Dems in exchange for protecting the country from default and economic calamity.
* SENATE DEMS TO RESUME PUSH ON GUNS: Senate Democrats plan to reintroduce measures that failed in 2013 to close loopholes in the background check system and crack down on gun trafficking. They have no hope of being considered by the GOP Congress. But:
Democrats are also mindful of trying to put Republicans, especially those running for re-election in swing states in 2016, on record as opposing the measures.
The fact that Dems see potential political advantage on this in states like Ohio, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire — where there are competitive Senate races — is perhaps a sign that gun politics are shifting, though this won’t produce results anytime soon.
* CAN GUNMAKERS BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE? E.J. Dionne writes about a proposal to require gun manufacturers that do business with the federal government to stop blocking various new technologies that would enhance safety and make it easier to track guns used in crimes:
So let’s talk less about the National Rifle Association and more about those whose interests the NRA serves, the big weapons sellers such as Sturm, Ruger & Co., Smith & Wesson, SIG Sauer, Beretta, Glock and Freedom Group. Let’s insist that Obama put his anger to work. And let’s use our proven capacity for technological innovation to reduce violence.
Obama has asked White House officials to “scrub” current law to find new ways that the executive branch can act on gun violence. So keep an eye on this idea.
* MORE GOOD ECONOMIC NEWS? Reuters:
The number of Americans filing new applications for jobless benefits fell more than expected to near a 42-year low last week, pointing to ongoing tightening in the labor market despite the recent slowdown in hiring. The data released on Thursday provides an upbeat check on the health of the labor market after last week’s monthly employment report increased doubts the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates by the end of this year.
More crazy and reckless brinkmanship in Congress is just the thing we need right now.
* AND IOWA REPUBLICANS AGREE WITH CARSON ON MUSLIMS: Bloomberg reports on focus groups of Iowa and New Hampshire Republicans who find Ben Carson appealing because he is “intelligent,” “measured,” and “calm.” Perhaps the most interesting tidbit: All Iowa participants agreed with Carson’s suggestion that he doesn’t want to see a Muslim president.
You may recall that diehard restrictionist Steve King predicted Carson’s comments about Islam would help him among Iowa Republicans. He may have been right!