Tensions flared at the start of a Senate hearing Monday, as the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee traded barbs on politicizing the Boston Marathon bombing in the debate over immigration reform.
Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the committee, began the hearing by chastising his counterpart, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, for comments made last week after it was revealed the suspects in the Boston bombings were ethnic Chechen brothers born in Kyrgyzstan who legally immigrated to the United States. The brothers were brought to the United States by their parents, who applied for legal status under the asylum provision.
Grassley said Friday finding out the immigration status of the brothers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, would "help shed light on the weaknesses of our system."
The younger brother received citizenship last September, but his older brother's application had not been approved or denied.
Other opponents of immigration reform also raised concerns about overhauling the system given the recent violence, but proponents, like Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said the incident highlighted flaws in the current system.
Leahy said Monday, no one should "be so cruel as to try to use the heinous acts of two young men last week to derail the dreams and futures of millions."
Grassley fired back in response that Democrats often pulled from the headlines to further their pet causes.
"I want you to take note of the fact that when you proposed gun legislation, I didn't accuse you of using the [Newtown] killings as an excuse," he said directly to Leahy. He added other lawmakers were also using the deadly fertilizer plant explosion in West Texas last week to push for greater regulations.
"I think we're taking advantage of an opportunity when once in 25 years we deal with immigration to make sure every base is covered," Grassley said, before launching into his prepared remarks.
Later in the hearing, Grassley shouted over Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who also criticized "those who were pointing to the terrible tragedy in Boston as, I would say, an excuse for not doing a bill in many months or years."
"I never said that," Grassley yelled out. "I never said that."
Schumer responded, "I didn't say you did, sir."
"Certainly our bill tightens up things in a way that make a Boston [incident] less-likely. Maybe it should be made tighter still, we're open to that," said Schumer, who was one of eight senators in a bipartisan group that labored over a comprehensive reform draft.
The back and forth represents the politicking at hand as Congress moves forward on a complicated and controversial issue.