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Clinton unveils manufacturing plan amid swipes from Sanders, GOP

Hillary Clinton on Friday unveiled a $10 billion plan to boost manufacturing nationwide, including an expansion of the solar energy industry.

But she quickly found herself reminded of her support for past trade agreements and her unkept promise to bring 200,000 jobs to upstate New York.

Clinton traveled to Syracuse to unveil her plan for “Make It In America” partnerships, which would offer manufacturers of all sizes incentives to create jobs in the United States, rather than abroad. She would pay for the plan by eliminating tax benefits some companies receive when they move jobs overseas.

“I’ve set some big goals,” she said at the Syracuse event where she promised “a renaissance in manufacturing” based in part on a goal that would be especially important to the new SolarCity plant that’s set to open in Buffalo.

“I’d like to see us deploy a half a billion more solar panels by the end of my first term and enough clean energy to power every home in America by the end of my second term,” she said.

But the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, said her support for free trade had undercut American manufacturers. And the Republican National Committee was quick to note that Clinton set and missed a lofty goal before – namely the 200,000 jobs she promised upstate New York when first running for the Senate in 2000.

It’s all a sign of the two-front war Clinton finds herself fighting as she tries to move closer to the Democratic nomination with a big win in the April 19 New York primary while facing down Republicans already looking toward the November general election.

Clinton took part in a discussion about manufacturing at a school in Syracuse and then held a campaign event at a public market.

At the roundtable discussion, she detailed her plan for Make It in America partnerships, which would aim to bring together companies, labor, colleges, universities and government agencies to bolster manufacturing in particular regions.

The plan would build on President Obama’s National Network for Manufacturing Innovation as well as bipartisan legislation sponsored by Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, and other lawmakers to create 15 manufacturing “hubs” around the nation.

One of the goals of Clinton’s manufacturing plan is to “ensure American competitiveness in the global clean-energy economy,” the campaign said in the plan’s outline. And that was a point Clinton stressed at her second event in Syracuse.

“Some country is going to be the clean-energy superpower of the 21st century,” she said. “They’re going to capture markets, they’re going to export technology. I think its going to be either China, Germany or us. I want it to be us, and I will do everything in my power to make sure it’s us.”

Clinton’s campaign argued that her manufacturing plan set her apart from Sanders.

“Sen. Sanders does not have a plan for manufacturing,” said Harrell Kirstein, a Clinton campaign spokesman. “That’s a pretty significant omission, but perhaps not surprising because he doesn’t really have a record on manufacturing either. Hillary Clinton not only has a long record and a clear strategy, she has underscored that it will be a priority as president.”

The Sanders campaign shot back by saying Clinton long has had a manufacturing plan – and that it has failed.

Citing Clinton’s support for trade relations with China, the North American Free Trade Agreement and her early backing for the Trans Pacific Partnership, Sanders spokesman Karthik Ganapathy said: “Hillary Clinton’s policies have decimated the manufacturing industry in New York and eliminated millions of jobs across the country.”

Ganapathy also noted that Sanders has a clean-energy plan of his own that aims to create 10 million new jobs in solar, wind and geothermal energy.

Amid that disagreement on manufacturing issues, the Clinton campaign pointed to her eight years as a U.S. senator from New York as proof that she’s focused on boosting jobs.

Clinton’s efforts led to additional funding for the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and to a series of regional partnerships across the state, including one that paired upstate farmers with downstate restaurants and groceries.

It was all part of her 2000 Senate campaign promise to create 200,000 jobs in upstate New York – a promise on which she fell short. In fact, federal statistics show that upstate lost 26,500 jobs in her first six-year term in the Senate.

That prompted Michael Short, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, to tweak Clinton about both that unfulfilled campaign promise as well as her 2005 comments at an event in India where she said the outsourcing of jobs was likely to continue.

“Whether it’s her broken promise to bring 200,000 jobs to upstate New York or her belief outsourcing is an ‘inevitability’ that will continue, Hillary Clinton has shown she doesn’t have the answers to keep our manufacturing jobs from disappearing,” Short said.

Asked for comment, the Clinton campaign highlighted comments she made on the issue during her 2008 presidential campaign, in which she said: “When I made the pledge, I was counting on having a Democratic White House, a Democratic presiden, who shared my values about what we needed to do to make the economy work for everyone and to create shared prosperity.”

Clinton’s events on manufacturing came on the same day as an increasingly angry spat between her campaign and Sanders over her campaign contributions from people with ties to the oil and gas industry.

It all started in Westchester County on Thursday, when a Greenpeace activist asked Clinton about “fossil fuel money” going to her campaign.

“I am so sick – I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about me. I am sick of it,” a visibly angry Clinton replied.

Sanders then went on “Good Morning America” on Friday to say: “The fact of the matter is Secretary Clinton has taken significant money from the fossil fuel industry. She raises her money with a super PAC.”

The Center for Responsive Politics has reported that the Clinton campaign and super PACs backing her have raised $333,262 from people and political groups with ties to the oil and gas industry, while Sanders has raised $53,760. In contrast, four Republican presidential candidates each raised more than $1 million from those with ties to the oil and gas industry, with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush leading the way with more than $10 million.

Despite those figures, the Clinton campaign took the dust-up seriously enough to schedule a conference call with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a progressive hero, who debunked Sanders’ claims.

“Any suggestion she is in anyone’s pocket is just flat-out false,” de Blasio said.

email: jzremski@buffnews.com