Senate Democrats in red states who face the voters this November must wonder, “What will President Obama do to us next?” He’s already hung Obamacare around their necks, delayed the Keystone XL pipeline and presided over a tiny-growth economy. Then he freed five Taliban terrorists in exchange for an U.S. soldier some call a deserter. Why of course! Let’s kill the coal industry! As has been reported, the Environmental Protection Agency has continued its war on coal, issuing regulations to cut emissions 30 percent in 15 years. The pushback has been furious.

Sen. Mitch McConnell -Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg Sen. Mitch McConnell (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) railed against the move: “The president’s plan is nuts, there’s really no more succinct way to describe it.  Americans are still asking ‘where are the jobs?’ and here he is proposing rules to ship jobs overseas for years to come.  Americans are already paying more for everything and here he is condemning them to higher bills and lower incomes long after he leaves office.  In many ways, this national energy tax is actually worse than the scheme Americans rejected four years ago. While the president may have kept his promise to make prices ‘skyrocket,’ it doesn’t have to be inevitable.”

In coal country, the president handed Republicans a ready-made issue. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is in a competitive race, decried the move. In a statement he declared, “Today’s announcement is a dagger in the heart of the American middle class, and to representative Democracy itself. Already reeling from the painful effects of Obamacare, the American people are now being told they have to shoulder the burdens of the President’s latest ‘solution’ in the form of higher costs, fewer jobs, and a less reliable energy grid. The fact that the President plans to do all this through an end-run around Congress only highlights his contempt for the wishes of the public and a system of government that was devised precisely to restrain an action like today’s.”

Congress could override the EPA, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) surely won’t allow that. He hasn’t allowed binding votes on the pipeline or Obamacare changes, so he surely won’t start now. How long then before red state Democrats start arguing, “Vote for me but encourage other states to vote for enough Republicans so Reid is replaced and I can vote to protect energy jobs“? That certainly would be honest.

Unfortunately for mainstream Democrats, the president and their party are captives to elite, radical environmentalists. Republicans are likely to pound away at this issue, which now rivals Obamacare as an issue for 2014. It is not only an economic issue, but also reveals the degree to which Democrats are compounding inequality and depressing economic growth. If Republicans run on a pro-energy, jobs message and offer an alternative to Obamacare, a great many voters will flock their way.