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Sources: Cheney curses senator over Halliburton criticism


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Typically a break from partisan warfare, this year's Senate class photo turned smiles into snarls as Vice President Dick Cheney reportedly used profanity toward one senior Democrat, sources said.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who was on the receiving end of Cheney's ire, confirmed that the vice president used profanity during Tuesday's class photo.

A spokesman for Cheney confirmed there was a "frank exchange of views."

Using profanity on the Senate floor while the Senate is session is against the rules. But the Senate was technically not in session at the time and the normal rules did not apply, a Senate official said.

The story, which was recounted by several sources, goes like this:

Cheney, who as president of the Senate was present for the picture day, turned to Leahy and scolded the senator over his recent criticism of the vice president for Halliburton's alleged war profiteering.

Cheney is the former CEO of Halliburton, and Democrats have suggested that while serving in the Bush administration he helped win lucrative contracts for his former firm, including a no-bid contract to rebuild Iraq.

Cheney's office has said repeatedly that the vice president has no role in government contracting and has severed all financial ties with the Texas-based oil services conglomerate.

Cheney was chief executive officer of Halliburton from 1995 to 2000. He resigned when he became George Bush's running mate.

In response to Cheney, Leahy reminded Cheney that the vice president had once accused him of being a bad Catholic, to which Cheney replied either "f--- off" or "go f--- yourself."

Leahy was referring to charges leveled by some conservatives during the confirmation battle of Bush judicial nominee William Pryor last August. Some supporters of Pryor, who is Catholic, claimed Senate Democrats were "anti-Catholic" for opposing the Alabama attorney general's nomination to the federal bench.

Leahy would not comment on the specifics of the story Thursday, but did confirm that Cheney used profanity.

"I think he was just having a bad day," said Leahy, "and I was kind of shocked to hear that kind of language on the floor."

Kevin Kellems, a spokesman for the vice president, said, "That doesn't sound like the kind of language that the vice president would use, but I can confirm that there was a frank exchange of views."

CNN's Steve Turnham contributed to this report.

 
 
 
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