Predictably, the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday approved along party lines the nomination of former Nebraska GOP Senator Chuck Hagel as President Obama's defense secretary, sending it to the full Senate on a 14-11 vote.
But there was bad blood in the air, as several Republicans cracked on Hagel for various transgressions. Texas's new addition to the Senate, the Tea Party party favorite Ted Cruz, suggested without proof that Hagel was being influenced by countries like North Korea and Saudi Arabia. Cruz said Hagel's refusal to disclose listing the groups who paid him for speeches over the years made him unworthy of the committee's support.
That was too much for Florida Democrat Bill Nelson, who uncharacteristically shot back at Cruz as going too far:
Nelson said Cruz had impugned Hagel's patriotism, in essence by saying he was "cozy with Iran," and questioned the Texas Senator's statement that Hagel had not been truthful to the Armed Services Committee, saying violated the "certain degree of comity and civility that this committee has always been known for."
"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," Nelson added. "I would encourage this committee to take the role model of its former chairman, Sen. McCain, who can get into it hot and heavy, but at the end of the day, he's gonna respect the other person's motives."
Watch Cruz comments that so angered Nelson:
A vote from the entire Senate on Hagel's nomination could come on Thursday.