Howard Dean to withhold support if DCCC funds candidates opposed to abortion rights

Howard Dean to withhold support if DCCC funds candidates opposed to abortion rights
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Former Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Howard Dean threatened Monday to withhold support for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) if it funds candidates who oppose abortion rights.

“I'm afraid I'll be with holding support for the DCCC if this is true,” Dean wrote on Twitter, including a report from The Hill addressing the issue.

Dean clarified the tweet in a subsequent email to The Hill, saying there are "degrees of pro life" and that he doesn't want to contribute to any candidates who "oppose all abortion rights." 

Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), chairman of the DCCC, said in an interview with The Hill that his organization will not put a litmus test on the Democratic Party’s candidates on abortion.

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“There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates,” Luján said. “As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America.” 

In May, Dean made clear that he thinks the Democratic Party should include people who identify as pro-life. He told The Atlantic that he met with Democrats for Life during his stint as chairman of the Democratic Party, when the party won House seats with a handful of pro-life candidates and ultimately took back the majority. 

"I don’t believe we should exclude people from the Democratic Party just because they call themselves pro-life,” Dean told The Atlantic.

Several party leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), have said they oppose issue-specific tests for candidates.

The Planned Parenthood Action Fund -- which spent about $1.4 million on federal elections in 2016, according to OpenSecrets -- responded Monday evening.

“Let's be clear: Supporting reproductive rights, including abortion, is central to expanding economic opportunity to all Americans,” spokeswoman Erica Sackin said in a statement. “They are fundamental to women’s economic security, health and well being.”

"As a nonpartisan organization, Planned Parenthood will hold any political party, any candidate for public office, and any elected official accountable for not standing up for reproductive rights," Sackin said.

DNC Chairman Tom Perez has sent conflicting messages about a potential litmus test on abortion rights in recent months. 

As of now, it appears that none of the major Democratic House recruits have signaled opposition to abortion rights.

Perez faced backlash earlier this year after he campaigned with a Nebraska Democrat who opposed abortion rights.

Following the controversy, Perez in a statement said the party’s abortion position was “non-negotiable,” though a DNC official at the time said Perez was not imposing a strict standard by issuing the statement.

- This story was updated at 6:14 p.m.