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Dorgan Says Obama Misfired by Pursuing Health Care Before Jobs

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) said Friday it was a mistake for President Barack Obama to try to enact health care reform during the first year of his presidency rather than to focus on jobs and the economy.

In an interview set to air Sunday on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program, Dorgan said Obama should have prioritized bills targeting job creation and the economy. Dorgan, who is retiring at the end of this year, supports the president’s health care agenda and voted in favor of the Senate’s $871 billion bill late last year.

Dorgan, chairman of the Democratic Conference Policy Committee, has been tasked by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) with helping to develop that chamber’s jobs bill. He said he felt that effort should have been the No. 1 priority of Congress and the White House “a year ago.”

“My feeling is that, a year ago, the issue should have been all economy all the time and all about jobs all the time,” Dorgan said. “While I think health care is very important — it’s a significant part of our economy — I think what takes precedence over that is the American people seeing their government deciding job one is to try to repair this economy and put people back to work.”

Asked specifically if he thinks Obama made a mistake in pursuing health care first, Dorgan said: “I do, I do, and not because health care isn’t important.”

“I just think the timing wasn’t good,” Dorgan explained. “Standing in a very deep hole, its hard to reach as high as you need to reach in order to put together a proposal that can get through the Congress. I personally would have said, let’s work exclusively on restarting the economic engine once again and putting people back to work.”

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