WASHINGTON — The Republican Party won dozens of elections last fall after claiming Democrats had focused too little on creating jobs, but now GOP lawmakers stand accused of the same thing.
Republicans are using their new House majority to push for a repeal of President Obama’s health care law and for restrictions on abortions, and to highlight other social issues important to their most conservative supporters. Examples include limiting jury awards in medical malpractice cases and expanding the District of Columbia’s school voucher program.
Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who oversaw GOP House campaigns in past years, defended the early focus on health and abortion. “These are commitments we made’’ during the fall campaign, he said, adding that a heavier emphasis on jobs is coming soon.
Democrats scoff at this notion. “It’s astonishing to me how tone-deaf the Republicans have been in the first weeks of the session,’’ said Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, a Worcester Democrat. “They’ve talked about everything but jobs.’’
When reporters asked why jobs weren’t the main focus, House Speaker John Boehner, Republican of Ohio, said it was vital to vote against the health law because “it’s destroying jobs in America.’’ Republicans say the law could wipe out 650,000 jobs.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office put the law’s effect on supply and demand for labor as small.
Few were surprised when House Republicans voted to overturn the health care law, but the Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to block that effort.
Heads turned when Boehner presented the next item: writing into law a perennially renewed ban on federal dollars for abortion, and to specify that it applies to health plans. The abortion proposal “reflects the will of the people,’’ he said. “It’s one of our highest legislative priorities.’’