Attack upends agenda

Lawmakers were ready to debate gun control and immigration this week, but the terrorist attack in Boston blew their attention in a different direction.

White House officials and members of Congress are getting briefed on the investigation of the deadly bombings. At this point, however, there are far more questions than answers.

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President Obama on Tuesday said it is unclear who is behind the bombs that were detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. 

It would “take time to follow every lead,” he said, but pledged “we will find whoever harmed our citizens and bring them to justice.  

“If you want to know who we are, what America is, how we respond to evil, that’s it: selflessly, compassionately, unafraid.”

No one has claimed responsibility, and federal and state authorities are calling for the public’s help, which may suggest a lengthy hunt for the bomber.  

Forensic experts say many clues will be found at the crime scene. Others note that investigators will have access to a wealth of video evidence. 

Before the Boston bombings, Obama was making calls to pass gun control and a bipartisan group of senators were arranging a press conference to unveil their immigration reform measure. 

Now, both issues are off the front page and their champions are hitting the legislative pause button. 

The focus this week is on the enormity in Boston. It took a couple of years to identify who bombed the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. The rambling motivation behind those attacks wasn’t revealed until nine years after that deadly explosion. One hopes that the Boston investigation will be quicker. 

Debates about how to respond to the bombings began almost instantly and, not surprisingly, persuaded lawmaker to suggest that the policy positions they already held — on the sequester and immigration, for example — had somehow been made more salient and compelling by Monday’s terrorist bombing.  

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on MSNBC chastised the media for getting some aspects of the story wrong.  

“I just think everybody, including everybody in the press, needs to chill out here,” he said. 

Many press events have been postponed in the nation’s capital, and rightly so. Normal business will undoubtedly once again resume in Washington and beyond. But not this week.