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Story highlights

Democrats fighting Obamacare say they don't want to be distracted by Trump's taxes

(CNN) —  

Democratic operatives and lawmakers who once would have rejoiced at the release of President Donald Trump’s taxes reacted to the publication of his 2005 tax return by urging their colleagues not to get distracted from the Republican health care plan.

Journalist David Cay Johnston published the return information ahead of an appearance on MSNBC Tuesday. The return, which Johnson said he found in his mailbox, found that Trump paid $38 million in income tax in 2005. It was later confirmed by the White House.

Though Democrats have long coveted Trump’s tax returns, which the candidate and now president has refused to release, a cadre of Democratic operatives and lawmakers stressed the need to focus on the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, which the Congressional Budget Office says would cause millions to lose health insurance, lead to higher premiums in the short-term and decrease the amount spent on Medicaid.

“Message: tax cuts for the rich paid for by taking health care away from 24M people > tax returns,” Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama tweeted.

Sen. Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, added, “Focus! $880b cut in Medicaid in order to pay for a $880b tax cut for rich. Plus an age tax.”

And former Rep. John Dingell tweeted: “Most interesting # in Trump’s taxes: 24,000,000. Oh no wait that’s just how many Americans will lose health care under his terrible plan.”

The urge to focus on health care, not Trump’s taxes, is a tacit admission that Hillary Clinton’s messaging was off during her failed 2016 campaign.

Clinton spent considerable time focused on Trump’s taxes during the 2016 campaign, repeatedly returning to the issue in the close of her campaign.

“He is not going to release his tax returns between now and the time you start voting,” the Democratic nominee said on November 7 in Michigan. “And that sort of suggests there must be something really terrible in those tax returns because everyone else for more than 40 years has released them. So we will still wonder.”

Brian Fallon, former national press secretary to Clinton’s campaign, also urged Democrats to focus.

“Dems should return focus to Trumpcare tomorrow & the millions it will leave uninsured, not get distracted by two pages from ‘05 tax return,” Fallon tweeted.