Thursday, March 13, 2014
BOSTON (AP) — A congressional panel has canceled plans to meet with Boston marathon bombing victims and local emergency responders in Massachusetts.
A field hearing scheduled for Boston this spring will be held instead in Washington, D.C., a spokeswoman for the House Homeland Security Committee confirmed Thursday. Congressional officials said Boston's newly elected mayor, Martin Walsh, raised concerns that the hearing might politicize the attack that killed three and seriously wounded dozens more almost one year ago.
"The committee is moving forward with the hearing in Washington, D.C.," said Charlotte Sellmyer, the spokeswoman for the panel, which had been coordinating the Boston hearing with the mayor's office. "For many reasons, we decided to have the hearing in D.C."
She said the committee chairman, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, "wants to honor the victims and move forward in a constructive way."
Later Thursday, Walsh clarified that his concerns "had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with public safety and preparation" for others events scheduled around the anniversary of the attack.
"In discussions with our public safety leaders, we agreed that a field hearing at this time could pose resource challenges for our security planning and execution," Walsh said in a statement provided by his office.
Homeland Security Committee members, including Massachusetts Rep. William Keating, a Democrat, traveled to Russia as part of a yearlong investigation into the events leading up to the attack. Authorities say the suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and his older brother, ethnic Chechens from Russia who emigrated to the United States as children, planned and carried out the attack to retaliate against the U.S. for its involvement in Muslim countries. Tsarnaev's brother was killed in a shootout with police days after the bombing.
The committee's next meeting will highlight recommendations from a final report, set for release before the anniversary of the bombing.
Keating's office pushed for a Boston hearing in part to give victims and emergency responders an opportunity to be heard. Such hearings are common following attacks in other cities.
"The people in Boston deserve this opportunity and I think it will help the rest of the country in the process," he said last month.
First responders will be invited to participate in the Washington hearing, Sellmyer said, although it's unclear whether any will attend.