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Clinton urges Obama to tweak trade deal

Says president, Congress need to protect wages

Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed hundreds of supporters at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines on Sunday.
Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed hundreds of supporters at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines on Sunday.Charlie Neibergall/associated press

DES MOINES — Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that President Obama should use a setback in Congress to seek the best possible trade agreement with 11 other Pacific Rim nations, pointing to stumbles over the pact as an opportunity to address Democrats' concerns about job protections and wages.

''Let's take the lemons and turn it into lemonade,'' Clinton told more than 700 supporters at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, addressing the Trans Pacific Partnership trade proposal that has splintered Obama from House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and rank-and-file Democrats.

Courting Iowa voters, Clinton sought to address Democratic opponents of the trade legislation, including liberals and labor unions, who have said the Obama-backed plan will cost US jobs. The agreement has not been finalized or submitted to Congress.

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''The president should listen to and work with his allies in Congress, starting with Nancy Pelosi, who had 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,'' Clinton said. ''And if we don't get it, there should be no deal.''

''I have held my peace because I thought it was important for the Congress to have a full debate without thrusting presidential politics and candidates into it,'' Clinton said at a house party in Burlington. ''But now I think the president and his team could have a chance to drive a harder bargain.''

Clinton was spending most of the weekend in Iowa after formally launching her campaign in New York City.

Two other announced candidates for the Democratic nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and former governor Martin O'Malley of Maryland, have also been campaigning in Iowa. Sanders had appearances across the state Sunday. O'Malley held events in the state last week.

Former Virginia senator Jim Webb, who is exploring a potential Democratic bid, also held events in Iowa on Sunday.

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The White House and Republican leaders in Congress now face long odds in reviving the trade legislation after congressional Democrats helped defeat a job retraining program in a blow to Obama's attempt to secure so-called fast track authority.

Without the authority to negotiate trade deals that Congress can approve or reject, but not amend, the president would face difficulty in securing the Asia trade deal after years of work.