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Trump mocked "head clown" Sen. Chuck Schumer in a tweet

Trump's salvo comes amid increasing tension over GOP efforts to repeal Obamacare

Washington CNN —  

President-elect Donald Trump jabbed at Democrats and “head clown” Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, in a series of tweets about Obamacare on Thursday.

“The Democrats, lead by head clown Chuck Schumer, know how bad ObamaCare is and what a mess they are in. Instead of working to fix it they … do the typical political thing and BLAME. The fact is ObamaCare was a lie from the beginning. ‘Keep you doctor, keep your plan!’” Trump wrote.

He continued: “It is … time for Republicans & Democrats to get together and come up with a healthcare plan that really works - much less expensive & FAR BETTER!”

Schumer responded Thursday saying that Trump and the GOP should drop the name calling and focus on health care.

“We understand that President-elect Trump is in a difficult spot, that Republicans are in a difficult spot,” Schumer said. “They want to repeal ACA and have no idea how to replace it. But instead of calling names, the President-elect should roll up his sleeves and show us a replacement plan that will cover the 20 million Americans who gained coverage, that will cover students, or post-college students 21 to 26 who want to stay on their parents’ plan, that will show how we cover people with pre-existing conditions.”

Trump’s sharp rebuke marked a reversal of sorts on Schumer, who earlier in the week found himself answering questions about a New York Post report that Trump had told the New York Democrat that he liked him better than the GOP leaders in Congress.

In an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, Schumer effectively confirmed the report, saying that “when you get to be in my position, people do tend to want to flatter you and you’ve got to take it with a grain of salt.”

Still, despite the signs of an early rapprochement, the relationship between the New York pols soured throughout the week as Republicans plunged headlong into the contentious process of repealing Obamacare and unveiled legislation Wednesday to that effect.

Schumer slammed the Trump-led Republicans in a Wednesday news conference for pressing forward with the repeal. Flanked by a sign that said “Make America Sick Again,” Schumer lit into Republicans for lacking a viable replacement healthcare plan.

“Our Republican colleagues don’t quite know what to do, they’re like the dog who caught the bus. They can repeal, but they have nothing to put in its place,” Schumer said Wednesday.

“Republicans are plotting, and soon will be executing, a full-scale assault on the three pillars that support the American health care system. The Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid. The Republican plan to cut health care wouldn’t make America great again, it would make America sick again and lead to chaos instead of affordable care.”

The fiery rhetoric from Trump and Schumer runs counter to hopes that the two leaders would have a more productive relationship than cross-party partnerships in recent years. Both have well-established reputations as dealmakers, and had signaled a willingness to look for areas of collaboration.

Congressional Republicans have forwarded multiple proposals outlining ideas for replacing the Affordable Care Act, but the party has yet to coalesce around a sufficiently comprehensive plan, and a number of high-ranking GOP-ers have signaled their concern about moving forward without a viable alternative and causing chaos in health insurance markets.

Trump himself has only put forward a broad outline of a plan on his campaign website, and during the campaign he emphasized removing market barriers that prevent the sale of insurance across state lines.

In an interview on “New Day” on CNN Thursday, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine sounded a more conciliatory tone, urging Democrats and Republicans to work together to improve Obamacare instead of executing a total repeal.

“Look, can this law be improved? Can the health care system be improved? Sure it can, and we ought to be working together to do that,” Kaine said.

“But if they force through a partisan repeal vote and rush into a repeal that strips health insurance away from 30 million Americans and then say, oh, now that we have repealed it, please help us fix the mess that we made – (President Obama) said don’t bail them out of their own problem. The time to work to make improvements is right now, before a repeal vote,” Kaine added.

Democrats also risk further spoiling the well with a Thursday news conference aimed at scrutinizing Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, Republican Congressman Tom Price.