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Watch: Chuck Schumer admits Dems should have focused on jobs, not Obamacare

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U.S. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York speaks about how to reform the Democratic party agenda to counter the influence of the Tea Party wing of the Republican party during a speech at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. (AFP/Getty Images)

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of the Democratic leadership in the Senate, admitted Tuesday that Democrats made a political error by pushing for passage of Obamacare in 2009 and 2010, and instead should have focused on jobs and the economy.

Schumer's admission is essentially the same argument Republicans have made for the last several years — that Democrats and the Obama administration spent months working on health care when the main issue for most Americans was jobs and how to survive the Great Recession.

"After passing the stimulus, Democrats should have continued to propose middle class oriented programs, and build on the partial success of the stimulus," Schumer said in Washington. "But unfortunately, Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them."

"We took their mandate, and put all of our focus on the wrong problem, health care reform," he said.

Schemer stressed that the lack of health insurance among millions of Americans was an issue that "certainly needed to be addressed." But he said a higher priority was restoring the economy.

"[I]t wasn't the change we were hired to make," he said of the health care debate. "Americans were crying out for the end to the recession, for better wages and more jobs, not changes in health care."

Republicans have spent the last four years arguing that Obamacare was passed without a single Republican vote, and many have said Republicans won wave elections in 2010 and 2014 due to anger over the law.

Dozens of Tea Party members won in 2010, largely as part of the voters' response to the law and the stimulus bill. Democrats said that bill spent hundreds of billions of dollars on what Democrats called "shovel-ready" jobs programs, but even Obama later admitted that there were far fewer jobs created than he hoped.

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