Grassley isn’t the only Republican senator citing the events in Boston as an excuse to delay reform. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who was for reform before he was against it, might be for it again if the bill would have kept the Chechens out (it wouldn’t have, although all the rules requiring immigrants to register would help the government keep track of them). Marco Rubio of Florida, whose presidential hopes are riding on threading the immigration needle, wants to use the Boston investigation to address any shortcomings in the current bill. Dan Coats of Indiana called for Congress to “just push it back a month or two.”
Two months should just about do it, by which I mean kill immigration reform. Vice President Joe Biden, God love him, was asked to study gun control, and that study is now being blamed for sapping some of the momentum. (Although what really killed gun control was the National Rifle Association’s time-tested strategy of bullying cowardly members of Congress.)
This week’s hearing and last week’s bombings brought home two truths. The first is that Washington doesn’t cope with tragedy so much as look for partisan advantage in it. Although Grassley never admitted using Boston to delay immigration reform, he did say that if he were to do so, he would be justified, given how Democrats had used Newtown to push for greater gun control.
The second is related to the first: In a crisis, we should be grateful that the U.S. Congress, or at least the Senate, isn’t in charge. For civility, competence and common sense, we’re better off looking hundreds of miles away.
Margaret Carlson is a Bloomberg View columnist.