The Judiciary Committee's public debates are "bullshit," Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse declared Thursday as the venerable panel hashed over subpoenas aimed at the Russia investigation.
Sasse was apparently upset that the debate on the subpoenas was taking too long, while the eventual vote is likely a foregone partisan conclusion.
"Can we get a sense of how long we're going to be here?" a peevish Sasse asked, cutting off remarks Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz was about to deliver.
"Because some of us have other committees. With all due respect, I don't think anybody in private ever disagrees with me when I say it's bullshit the way people grandstand for cameras in here," Sasse said.
A lot of people do agree with Sasse, including many reporters who've sat through lengthy hearings where statements far outweigh questions.
Sasse suggested the grandstanding was toxic to America.
"The reality is if we didn't have cameras in this room the discussion would be different," he said. "The Senate doesn't work, it doesn't defuse the partisan tensions that are leading the country toward dissolution."
He insisted he's for transparency, having print reporters around, and transcripts.
"But 90 percent of our committees are about people trolling for sound bites. That's what actually happens," Sasse said. "So some of us have other work to do. People can troll for sound bites whenever they want."
Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was visibly annoyed at Sasse, and was sure Democrats in the room were not just posing in opposing a sweeping subpoena-backed probe of the Obama administration going into an election featuring Obama's vice president.
"Sen. Sasse, I don't think they're trolling for sound bites. I think they're genuinely upset with what I'm doing," Graham said.
Graham was not much mollified when Sasse clarified his jab was bipartisan.
"Yeah, and I don't think I'm trolling for sound bites," said Graham, who is not at all shy with a sound bite. "I'm trying to defend what I think we need to be doing, as chairman. There happens to be a TV camera. I think we'd be having the same conversation if there wasn't a television camera.
"So I find the whole concept offensive," Graham said. "If you got to go somewhere else, go. We're going to do what this committee needs to do."
Long-serving Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), who was elected after Watergate, said Sasse was just wrong about the cameras, suggesting lawmakers were plenty willing and able to burn time before they were allowed.
"I'm sure Mr. Sasse is very sure, in getting his point through," Leahy said. "But I would point out, long before we had TV in this in this room, I was here in hearings and meetings like this. [They'd] go way into evening."
Sasse offered a parting shot before letting Cruz proceed.
"I'm for debate. I don't think we do debate," he said.