Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) on Tuesday called out his Republican colleague Ted Cruz for insinuating that defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel may have given speeches to or received money from “radical or extreme groups.”
“Mr. Chairman, Sen. Cruz has stated his opinion, which he is entitled to, but I want to put on the record that this senator feels like that Sen. Cruz has gone over the line,” Nelson said at a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting. “He basically has impugned the patriotism of the nominee, in your conclusions, which you are entitled to come to, about him, in essence, being cozy with Iran.”
The heated exchange among committee members prompted Nelson to lament the lack of comity that has been a hallmark of the Armed Services Committee over the years. “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.”
The committee is expected to vote shortly on sending Hagel’s nomination to the full Senate. Hagel is expected to win approval from the committee on a party-line split.