THE leaders of the National Republican Congressional Committee couldn't believe their luck.
The committee had already made up its mind to target long-time West Virginia Democratic Congressman Nick Rahall in the 2014 election. But then Rahall delivered up a softball, a vote that, while largely symbolic, played right into the hands of his opponents.
On March 30, Rahall voted in favor of the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget plan. Dubbed the "Back to Work Budget," the proposal amounts to a traditional liberal wish list of higher taxes and more government spending.
But it was the coal-related provisions of the budget that caught the eye of the Republican Congressional Committee.
According to a release from the Congressional Progressive Caucus, its budget includes a carbon tax.
"The Back to Work Budget would impose on polluters a $25 per ton price on carbon dioxide (increasing at 5.6 percent a year), rebating 25 percent of all revenues as refundable tax credits to protect low income families."
The document also called for a rollback of what it says are $112 billion in fossil fuel subsidies over 10 years while spending more money on renewable energy.
The coal industry, which is so vital in Rahall's district, is already suffering. A combination of greater competition from low-priced natural gas and increased regulatory pressure from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has led to layoffs in the short term and uncertainty for the future.
The liberal budget plan failed decisively 84-327, with more Democrats (102) voting against it than in favor of it.
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, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., didn't even vote for it.
"With his vote for the ultra-liberal 'Progressive Budget,' Nick Rahall has 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,' " said NRCC spokesman Ian Prior.
"Rahall needs to explain exactly why he decided to turn his back on West Virginia with this devastating and irresponsible vote."