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Published: Tuesday, 1/8/2013

House of influence

Congress not only punted last week on dealing with the automatic budget cuts and federal debt limit, but it also reminded Americans that pork and politics always will have a place in major policy negotiations.

As the dust settles on the accord reached by the White House, the Senate and the House on permanently extending most of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts, two infuriating developments have come to light. One is that the new law, which was meant to help cut the deficit, is littered with tax breaks for influential interests. The other is that while these special pleaders were taken care of, Americans who were seeking aid to recover from Hurricane Sandy were not.

The nonpartisan Sunshine Foundation reported that special breaks were slipped into the law for “NASCAR, Hollywood production studios, U.S. multinationals with overseas subsidiaries, mining companies, railroads and renewable energy firms — the sort of taxpayers who can spend millions [of dollars] on lobbyists and whose PACs and employees can give millions more to the campaigns of lawmakers.”

While that got the green light, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio put a stop sign last week in front of the Senate-passed bill that would send aid to people and businesses hurt by the superstorm along the Atlantic coast. His neglect to move the bill was so outrageous that it was members of his own party — Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Rep. Peter King of New York — who were vociferous in their attacks.

Mr. Boehner mollified his critics by arranging a vote on part of the package, which was done last week. The lesson, apparently, is that even storm victims seeking help from Congress need a lobbyist.

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