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Pelosi, DCCC Use Tea Party to Fire Up Dem Voters

 Pelosi cites "tea party extremism" in blast mailer to Democratic voters. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Democratic leaders are urging their voting base to fill the party’s campaign coffers as part of an election-year battle against a “tide of tea party extremism.”  

Some political observers believe the tea party -- specifically, the House Freedom Caucus -- will keep its powder dry this year in favor of a number of policy and spending battles in 2017. But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi see the conservative movement as a way to fire up their base.  

“In the coming months, the DCCC will engage the American people in our urgent campaign to fight back the tide of tea party extremism and keep our nation moving forward,” the California Democrat wrote this week in a blast mailer to Democratic voters. “The Republicans’ congressional majorities continue to push a radical tea party agenda that’s rejected by a majority of the American people,” Pelosi wrote. “Their continuing threats to shut down the government are reckless and grossly irresponsible, proving their party continues to be dominated by obstruction, distraction and dysfunction.”  

Meredith Kelly, a DCCC spokeswoman, said Friday the letter was focused on the tea party because “Ted Cruz, the House Freedom Caucus and their tea party roots are as powerful as ever.”  

“Their hold over the entire Republican Party is beneficial to House Democrats," Kelly added in an email.  

Asked about the letter’s focus, Pelosi spokeswoman Evangeline George replied in an email: “At the expense of hardworking American families, the priorities of this Republican Congress continue to be tea party priorities.”  

The letter is part of a mailer that includes a survey asking voters about their feelings about about the party’s efforts on issues like gun control, health care reform, money in politics, the environment, national security, and others.  

Pelosi’s letter targets, as she wrote, “progressive” voters.  

That word in recent days has taken a prominent role in the Democratic primary race between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt. The two have jousted, including during a debate on MSNBC Thursday night, about which one best defines that label.  

The flap began earlier this week when Sanders began to question Clinton’s progressive chops.  

“You can be a moderate. You can be a progressive. But you cannot be a moderate and a progressive,” his campaign tweeted Wednesday.  

https://twitter.com/BernieSanders/status/694967235333484544?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw  

Clinton hit back during the prime-time debate, labeling herself a “progressive who gets things done. She also hit Sanders for his votes on a 1980s law that put in place background checks for those looking to purchase a firearm.  

“I don’t think it was particularly progressive to vote against the Brady bill five times,” Clinton said in one of the debate’s most memorable and contentious moments.  

In asking voters to give the DCCC contributions ranging from $10-$50, Pelosi suggests Democrats could threaten to regain control of the House.  

“Together we will … work hard for Democratic candidates who will fight for the progressive policies we need to put the majority in play in November and to keep America moving forward,” she writes.  

That echoes comments Vice President Joseph Biden Jr. delivered last month to congressional Democrats.  

“I think the House, we can win,” Biden told lawmakers gathered in Baltimore for a Democratic retreat. “I really mean it.”  

Contact Bennett at johnbennett@cqrollcall.com and follow him on Twitter at @BennettJohnT. Related: McMorris Rodgers on Marijuana, Women in Politics and GOP Agenda Roll Call Race Ratings Map: Ratings for Every House and Senate Race in 2016 Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.