On the first day of a tragedy, everyone agrees that it's no time for politics. On day two, however, it's open season, apparently.
It's hard to process something like the Boston bombing and speak intelligently about it. Examples of unwise reactions abound, but let's concentrate on what House Democrats said today. Politico's Jake Sherman has the report:
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), speaking to reporters Tuesday morning, said the bombings are "clearly another place where it demonstrates why having the ability to address security concerns is important."
Hoyer added: "I think there are multiple reasons for ensuring that we invest in our security both domestic and international security. That we invest in the education of our children, that we invest in growing jobs in America and don't pursue any irrational policy of cutting the highest priorities and the lowest priorities by essentially the same percentage."
Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said that the first responders working Monday aren't sheltered from cuts.
"We have to send you less money to help your first responders," Becerra said.
This seems like a risky line of argument for Democrats, even with Hoyer's hedging. In the short term, there's a question of taste and accuracy. People aren't taking his comments well (just check Twitter). Even if the Maryland congressman offered it the best faith, it smacks of political opportunism. And moreover, is there any evidence that more funding for law enforcement and security from the federal government would have made any difference in this attack, even if sequestration's effects were in place? Certainly not yet; it's far too soon to tell.
In the medium to long term, however, the greater danger for folks like Hoyer and Becerra is that they'll win. To recap the sequester debate to the crassest of generalizations, Republicans like that the sequester cut spending, but are unhappy about cuts to specific programs. In particular, the hawkish wing of the party was horrified by defense cuts. Democrats, meanwhile, saw little to like. They worry that cutting federal spending now will slow down the economy, and though they were mostly OK with the defense cuts, they were horrified by cuts to a slew of discretionary programs, stuff like Head Start, FEMA, public housing, USAID, the NIH ... the list goes on.