Hillary Clinton sought to clarify her shifting position on a $15 federal minimum wage, saying Sunday that she would sign legislation enshrining that figure if pay rose gradually and if the law included escape clauses similar to those approved this month in New York state.
"If it has the same kind of understanding about how we have to phase this in, how we have to evaluate it as we go, if the Congress passes that, of course I would sign it," Clinton said in an interview on ABC's "This Week."
Her rival in the Democratic primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders, has accused Clinton of being vague and inconsistent on raising the minimum wage and has won significant popular support with a promise of an increase for every worker. Clinton appeared to shift her position in favor of a $12 federal minimum wage during a contentious debate with Sanders last week, but she insisted Sunday that the Sanders campaign is "trying to make something where there is nothing."
Not so, Sanders said. "She's just not being accurate on that," he said.
"She has, at the beginning of this campaign, said we need a $12 minimum wage. I have said at the very beginning of this, my campaign, we need to raise the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour," Sanders said.
"And that is kind of the difference between the way we do politics. I'm trying to set a high bar. I'm trying to be a leader."
Clinton's new position that she would support a New York-style graduated increase nationally if approved by Congress is less bold and less clear-cut than his, Sanders suggested.
"I am trying to be a leader, which says we have got to take on big-money interests in this country," Sanders said.
New York's law would raise the wage from $9 to $15 in New York City in three years, with lower ceilings phased in for less affluent regions upstate, where the cost of living is lower. An eventual statewide $15 minimum would be tied to economic indicators.
Clinton joined Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a boisterous signing ceremony for the New York law this month and predicted that the movement will "sweep our country."
The current federal minimum is $7.25, but it is higher in many states and localities.
Clinton spoke from California, where she attended big-money fundraising parties in San Francisco and Los Angeles over the weekend.
The fundraising swing took her away from the campaign trail in New York for slightly longer than Sanders, who broke from the trail to speak at a Vatican academic conference on economic justice. He returned to New York on Saturday and appeared on the ABC program live. He also appeared on two other Sunday public affairs shows.
On ABC, Clinton said she feels good about her chances in what has become a crucial test of strength in New York's Democratic primary on Tuesday. She leads Sanders by double digits in most polling, but he has eroded her lead and his supporters see the vote as a way to demonstrate that Clinton is a flawed candidate who has not locked up the party nomination.
Clinton would not say whether she supports Sen. Charles Schumer's effort to allow families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks the right to sue state sponsors of terrorism in U.S. federal court. The proposed legislation is opposed by the Obama administration, which argues that it would invite retaliation. Schumer is a Clinton supporter. Obama has not endorsed either candidate but has repeatedly said Clinton is qualified for the job.
Clinton said she has not studied the terrorism-lawsuit issue, although the proposal has been debated in various forms for several years.
"I don't really know about that," she said. "I'll have to look into it. Obviously, we've got to make anyone who participates in or supports terrorism pay a price. And we also have to be aware of any consequences that might affect Americans, either military or civilian, or our nation."
Pressed by host George Stephanopolous, Clinton would not go further.
"I can't. I haven't studied it," she said. "Unlike some people, I actually do try to learn what's at the core of any question before I offer an opinion, cause you know, it's not enough to say what's wrong," Clinton said, in a slap at what she calls Sanders's broad-brush policy proposals. "I think you've got a responsibility to say how you're going to fix it."
She said she would ignore Republican Donald Trump's latest nickname for her, "Crooked Hillary."
"I don't respond to Donald Trump and his string of insults about me. I can take care of myself," she said, adding that she is more concerned about what she called his targeting of women, the disabled, immigrants and Muslims.
"He is undermining the values that we stand for in New York and across America, and he's hurting us around the world," Clinton said. "He can say whatever he want to say about me. I really could care less."