Congress Tries to Make Sense of Boston Tragedy

In Congress, some wonder if country is too complacent.

A man is loaded into an ambulance after he was injured by one of two bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon, April 15, 2013.
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Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are in a holding pattern as they anxiously await more details about who was responsible for an explosion at the Boston Marathon that killed 3 and left more than 170 wounded. While they wait, lawmakers weigh options for how to confront future acts of terror.

[PHOTOS: Deadly Explosions at Boston Marathon]

"Information continues to emerge very slowly, but no matter what we find, we'll never be able to truly explain how or why a human being could commit such an unspeakable act against totally innocent people," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters during a briefing. "Right now, we're all in a state of shock over something as horrible as this."

On the Senate floor, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., encouraged Americans to be on guard, be vigilant and not "complacent."

"On 9/11, we were forever disabused of the notion that attacks like the one that rocked Boston [Monday] only happen on the field of battle, or in distant countries. With the passage of time, however, and the vigilant efforts of our military, intelligence and law enforcement professionals, I think it's safe to say that, for many, the complacency that prevailed prior to Sept. 11 has returned," McConnell said.

 

Other lawmakers on the Hill explained how Monday's attack shows that stopping future attacks is an extremely complicated endeavor.

[READ: Boston Bombing Funerals Will Be Picketed, Westboro Baptist Church Says]

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., told reporters Tuesday that sometimes, even if every precaution is put in place and every protocol is followed, horrible acts of terror can still persist.

"There are a bunch of nuts out there and things are going to happen and there isn't anything you can do about it. I do not know anything that could have precluded this," Inhofe says. "On any given day, there are huge events that are happening and there isn't a way, without eroding our freedoms, to keep this from happening."

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said that the country's law enforcement and intelligence communities have been more aggressive than ever.

"We can never get complacent, but knowing and speaking to the FBI and the NYPD all the time, they are not complacent in my opinion," Schumer says.

Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., says the proof is in the number of terrorist plots that have been thwarted in the past few years, such as the Christmas Eve "underwear bomber" to a failed attempt to set off explosives in New York City's Times Square.

[SEE: Political Cartoons on the Bombing]

"There are over 100 terrorist potential attacks that have been stopped by the wonderful work of the FBI in this country and the CIA abroad," Feinstein says.

Feinstein and the intelligence committee had a scheduled budget meeting Tuesday with CIA director James Clapper, but Feinstein said she expected the conversation to inevitably focus on Boston and what Congress can do to stop future violence.

The senator said she had been in communication with the FBI, but added details were slow to emerge.

Over in the House of Representatives, Democratic lawmakers warned that sequestration, a set of budget cuts that went into effect in March, could make it tougher for federal agencies to stop tragedies from occurring in the future.

[OBAMA: This Was an Act of Terror]

"There are multiple reasons for ensuring that we invest in our security, both domestic and international security,' said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md. "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."

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