Coming into this election cycle, Rick Boucher was the safest of Democrats. Despite his district's strong Republican lean, he has been re-elected comfortably in recent years. His district did not even earn a mention on Charlie Cook's list of races to watch until September, when he first listed it as 'Likely Democratic.'
It's become clear recently however, that Rick Boucher is in trouble. His liberal voting record is out-of-touch with his conservative district - particularly on the key issue of Cap-and-Trade. And now he's having trouble dodging responsibility for a vote that would kill the coal industry in his district:
The lesser of two evils is how Congressman Rick Boucher described cap and trade legislation.
Boucher said the Supreme Court’s ruled in 2007 that green house gases were pollutants and had to be regulated. He said that meant the Environmental Protection Agency would regulate the gases or congress would have to write the regulations.
He said the regulations did not originate with the current president and denied that Obama hated coal or intended to regulate coal out of business. Boucher said the regulation drafted by Congress was not perfect but did protect the coal industry.
He said voting no, as West Virginia Congressman Nick Joe Rahall, did would not have been serving his district. “I could have voted no and that would have taken me out of the picture when it came to negotiating what was in the legislation.
By staying in the process I was able to get some changes to the bill that protected the coal industry,’ Boucher said. He said Rahall and other coal country representatives who voted against the bill were not on the Energy and Commerce Committee as he is and would not have had input on the bill anyway...
The cap and trade agreement is currently in the senate and Boucher said he is working to get that body to make even more changes to it. He said regulation is inevitable and the bill passed by Congress was the best for the coal industry.
There's a lot of dissembling here, so it's useful to look at all of it.
First off, Boucher is correct when he says that the Supreme Court told the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. However, the EPA is going far beyond what was required by the Court. The Obama Administration is regulating on a far faster timetable than dictated by the Court, and is regulating significantly more sources than the Court dictated. Boucher claims he had to support cap-and-tax because the alternative was worse. But it didn't have to be worse. That was a path chosen by Boucher's friends in the Obama administration. And he put their interests ahead of his constituents' when he supported their job-destroying bill.
As to whether or not Barack Obama 'hates' the coal industry, Boucher has some Democrat friends who are more honest on the point than he is. Jay Rockefeller for example, says Barack Obama is 'not believable' when he claims to be in favor of clean coal. Representative Nick Rahall is concerned enough about EPA's heavy-handed approach to coal that he felt compelled to ask the EPA head if her agency was attempting to shut down coal mining in the US. Democrats in West Virginia - where the coal industry is even more important than in Boucher's district - have been a lot more vocal in support of their constituents than Boucher has.
And of course, Boucher doesn't even seem to consider the possibility of pointing out that the science of 'climate change' is more suspect now than it has ever been. Faced with a choice between voting for the biggest tax increase in American history, and having the EPA impose such a tax increase, a responsible Member of Congress from a coal-producing district might simply oppose the entire effort. After all, can a few meager concessions really make palatable a bill that even the CBO admits will cause major job losses in fossil fuel industries? A Member who cares about his constituents' interests might actually argue against the entire effort - as some Democrats did.
Lastly, Boucher would have his constituents believe that the best way to protect their interests was to stay inside the cap-and-trade coalition, gaining concessions. Haven't we had enough lessons in this Congress alone that the best concessions are gained by lining up against the bill until the Democrat leadership buys you off? Ask Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu if they would have gained as much by supporting health care as they did by opposing it.
Boucher is simply trying to fool the people of southwest Virginia. They know that he voted for a bill that will impose huge new costs on them even as it destroys their livelihood. Now that he's actually seeking re-election, he's trying any explanation he can think of that will fool them. It's not going to work.