Sen. Harry Reid has gotten blowback following a speech Tuesday that coupled the deadly Marine Corps accident at the Hawthorne Army Depot and spending cuts to military training and maintenance.
Reid, the Senate majority leader from Nevada, did not say the so-called budget sequester was to blame for the mortar shell explosion that killed seven Marines.
But after expressing condolences for the deaths in a Senate speech, he rubbed some the wrong way when he pivoted to decry the sequester's impact on military training and maintenance.
"It is very important we continue to train our military -- it is so important -- but one of the things that has happened due to the sequester is we have cut back on our training and maintenance." Reid said. "That is the way the sequester was written."
After noting the Senate was working on a bill to give the military some flexibility to adapt to lower spending, Reid added that "we have to be very vigilant. This sequester should go away.
"We have already cut huge amounts of money in deficit reduction, which is not appropriate," he said. "Our military cannot train and do the maintenance that is necessary. These men and women are Marines who are training in Hawthorne, and with the sequester, it is going to cut stuff back. I hope everyone understands the sacrifices made by our military. They make significant sacrifices by being away from home, their families, and their country. The sequester needs to go away."
Former Republican Rep. Allen West of Florida tweeted to Reid that he was "disgusted by your attempt to politicize the death of 7 Marines in NV. If you possessed any shred of honor, you'd apologize now."
Reporting from the Pentagon, NBC correspondent Jim Miklaszewski said a few hours later that Marine Corps officials "are taking strong exception to what Harry Reid implied," and that the accident "had nothing to do with budget cuts."
"One Marine Corps official told us a short time ago he consider this nothing but pure political posturing on the backs of these dead Marines," Miklaszewski said.
A Marine Corps spokesman later told Huffington Post those comments from an unnamed official "are unsubstantiated and certainly do not reflect the Marine Corps' position on this matter."
Reid's office did not comment today. In a statement issued Tuesday, Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman said his "thoughts are with the Marines who were killed or injured and their loved ones.
"The idea that Senator Reid thinks the Hawthorne tragedy has anything to do with the sequester is absurd and unsubstantiated by his remarks on the topic," Orthman said. "Marines would not be forced to operate under unsafe conditions due to budget cuts."