The tenor of the Senate Armed Services Committee degenerated on Tuesday as the committee debated whether to send the nomination of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense to a vote.
After first-term Senator Ted Cruz, new to the committee, raised the question of whether or not Hagel has been taking money from “radical and extreme groups” and of whether he has ties to Iran, Senator Bill Nelson scolded him.
“I want to put on the record that this senator feels like Senator Cruz has gone over the line,” Nelson said. “He basically has impugned the patriotism of the nomniee. And your conclusions, which you are entitled to come to, in essence about him being cozy with Iran.”
“You have also stated your opinion that you don’t think he’s been truthful with this committee, and those are two fairly strong statements,” Nelson said.
“There’s a certain degree of comity and civility that this committee has always been known for,” Nelson said. “Clearly in the sharpness of difference of opinion — to question in essence whether somebody is a fellow traveler with another country, I think is taking it too far.”
Senator Jim Inhofe came to Cruz’s defense, saying that Hagel had been “endorsed” by Iran and that “it can’t get any cozier than that,” but Senator John McCain seemed to agree with Nelson and Carl Levin, the chairman of the committee, showed little patience for Cruz.
Despite strong rhetoric on the anti-Hagel side, the committee voted to send the nomination to the full Senate.