Coal Tattoo

Hoppy confirms it: Rep. Rahall is NOT anti-coal

It’s been mildly amusing over the years to watch the Republicans try time and again to take down longtime Southern West Virginia Democrat Nick Rahall. Their recent efforts to get Rep. Rahall have focused on the absurd allegation that he doesn’t support the coal industry.

Most recently, the West Virginia GOP has been trying to call attention to a vote Rep. Rahall made on something that the House Progressive Caucus dubbed the “Back to Work Budget.”

The first release I saw about this screamed: Nick Rahall just declared war on coal! The National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee said in that release:

With his vote for the ultra-liberal ‘Progressive Budget,’ Nick Rahall just declared war on West Virginia’s coal industry and the hard-working West Virginians that depend on that industry to put food on their families’ tables. Rahall needs to explain exactly why he decided to turn his back on West Virginia with this devastating and irresponsible vote.

Now first things first, and let’s be clear that this budget (which failed) was an effort by the more liberal Democrats in the House to respond to Republican Paul Ryan’s budget. In explaining the proposal, the Economic Policy Institute said:

It builds on recent CPC budget alternatives in prioritizing near-term job creation, financing public investments, strengthening the middle class, raising adequate revenue to meet budgetary needs while restoring fairness to the tax code, protecting social insurance programs, and ensuring fiscal sustainability.

But what has the Republicans so worked up is that the proposal also dares to suggest that the country do more to try to combat the climate crisis, with this:

To reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and yield significant revenue on an annual basis, the budget would price carbon emissions starting at $25 per metric ton in 2014 and indexed at a 5.6 annual rate. Because pricing carbon has the potential to be regressive, the Back to Work budget would rebate 25 percent of the revenue from carbon abatement as refundable credits to low- and middle-income households. Net of this rebate, carbon pricing would raise over $1.1 trillion of revenue over FY2014–2023.

The West Virginia GOP demanded that Rep. Rahall answer for this:

“Congressman Rahall has never hidden his support for Barrack Obama’s job-killing agenda,” said Conrad Lucas, Chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party. “Nick Rahall is no stranger to siding with radical liberal policy over the interests of the people he represents and he must be stopped.”

Over at MetroNews Hoppy Kercheval finally bit on this, writing in a commentary the other day:

Rahall’s vote in support of the Back to Work Budget is difficult to comprehend. It was not a leadership vote where Rahall had to toe the line. In fact, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi didn’t even vote for it.

Rahall’s office stresses that he knew the non-binding budget would not pass, and that he wanted to make a statement against the budget of Republican Paul Ryan, which passed the House and which Rahall opposed.  The Ryan plan dramatically changes Medicare by turning it into a premium support system for anyone 55 and under.

“I voted to protect Medicare and the benefits seniors have earned and to move the budget toward balance in a reasonable way,” Rahall said in an email response to my questions.

The Congressman says he’s also aware that since he’s been targeted for 2014, the GOP is going to come after him no matter what he says or does.

“I know from years of experience that nearly any vote I cast can be fodder for attack—especially on big, wide-ranging package bills like the annual federal budget, the contents of which can be twisted and distorted in multiple says,” Rahall said.

On Hoppy’s show today, Rep. Rahall repeated his opposition to a carbon tax, noting that he co-sponsored one bill with Rep. David McKinley to block any such tax and also introduced his own legislation in that regard. As best I can tell, Rep. Rahall’s explanation is that the materials he saw regarding the “Back to Work” budget did not specify that the numbers in it were based on having a  carbon tax. He told Hoppy today:

That was not included … I was voting for an alternative to the Ryan budget.

Incredibly, Hoppy told Rep. Rahall:

I know you’re not anti-coal and I know you’re not for a carbon tax.

The only question now is what will Hoppy and MetroNews do when the Republicans pick this round’s choice to try to take down Nick Rahall? When the GOP starts saying Rep. Rahall is anti-coal and favors a carbon tax, will MetroNews reporters point out that the Republicans are wrong? Will MetroNews run political ads that make these false charges? Stay tuned … the election is closer than you think.