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Republicans Can’t Keep Social Issues Off Agenda

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Speaker John Boehner tried to quickly appease his conservative ranks in January when he designated as H.R. 3 legislation, introduced by Rep. Chris Smith, that would make federal funding of abortions illegal under the health care law.

So much for House Republicans not taking up social issues this year.

House GOP leaders may not have intended on pushing a social issues agenda — they basically ignored such thorny topics in their “Pledge to America” majority-making document last year. But that isn’t stopping rank-and-file Members from looking for opportunities to advance measures dealing with red-meat subjects such as English as the national language, abortion funding and the practice of allowing “anchor babies” citizenship.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) tried to quickly appease his conservative ranks in January when he designated as H.R. 3 legislation that would make federal funding of abortions illegal under the health care law. At the unveiling of the bill, which was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Boehner said it was “one of our highest legislative priorities.”

“Our Members feel very strongly about the sanctity of human life,” he added. “We listened to the American people. We made a commitment to the American people in our Pledge to America, and we are continuing to fulfill our commitment.”

However, Republicans were quick to note that Boehner doesn’t plan to upend the majority’s fiscally conservative agenda to make room for social matters. The abortion funding provision was one of the few social issues outlined in the Pledge to America. The document also reaffirmed GOP support for “traditional marriage” but did not explicitly mention same-sex marriage or other controversial gay rights issues.

Boehner is focused on cutting spending and government regulation and growing jobs, spokesman Michael Steel said.

“We put together our Pledge to America by listening to the American people, and we’re focused on their top priorities: cutting spending and helping to create jobs,” Steel said in a statement. “There are any number of other important issues that the Speaker and others in our Conference care deeply about ­— including ending taxpayer funding of abortion, making sure every child has the opportunity to get a quality education, keeping terrorists out of America — and some of those were included in the Pledge as well.”

Rep. Lee Terry, a supporter of the social issues agenda, described the abortion funding provision in the health care law as the “pinnacle” of social issues that will get done in the 112th Congress.

“This is all part of efficient use of tax dollars, limiting the budget, so you’ll see more emphasis on fiscal issues than on pure abortion or social issues,” the Nebraska Republican said.

But Rep. Trent Franks, an anti-
abortion-rights advocate, said it is important for Republicans to try to do more than just focus on social issues tied to the economy.

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