By Andy Sullivan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bernie Sanders, the outspoken progressive U.S. senator challenging Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, urged her on Sunday to take a stand on a big trade deal that has divided the Democratic Party.
Clinton aides appearing on Sunday television news shows said she would not weigh in until negotiations were complete.
Sanders, a vocal critic of free trade, called on Clinton to join labor unions, environmentalists and other opponents of the trade package before it is brought up for another vote this week. Clinton is the front-runner among candidates to be the Democratic Party nominee for the November 2016 election.
"Corporate America and Wall Street are going to bring that bill back," Sanders said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "If she joins us, we could stop this disastrous deal once and for all."
Democrats in Congress dealt a blow to President Barack Obama on Friday when they rejected related trade legislation that would have cleared the way for a sweeping Pacific Rim trade deal, despite his personal plea that it was crucial to bolstering ties with Asia. [ID:nL1N0YZ015]
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is shaping up to be a significant test for Clinton as her party has grown more suspicious of the merits of free trade since her husband, Bill Clinton, signed the North American Free Trade Agreement into law as president in 1993.
Clinton has expressed reservations about free trade deals in the past, but she played a central role in trade talks with the 11 countries involved in the TPP as Obama's secretary of state.
Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta said she would render a judgment when the deal is final.
"She has a clear standard that it's got to be good for American workers or she thinks the United States should walk away from it," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Clinton aides also declined to say whether she opposed or supported the legislation currently before Congress, which would limit lawmakers' input to an up-or-down vote on a final deal and provide benefits to workers who lost their jobs due to globalization.
Republican Representative Paul Ryan, a leading advocate of the trade deal, said the Clinton campaign's refusal to take a stand on the issue was "painful."
"Pick a position. I mean, that's what leaders do," he said on "Fox News Sunday."
(Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Frances Kerry)