Morry Gash  /  AP file
Vice President Dick Cheney is reflected in a mirror as he speaks earlier this year in Milwaukee.
msnbc.com news services
updated 6/24/2004 7:04:39 PM ET 2004-06-24T23:04:39

Vice President Cheney cursed at Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy during a confrontation on the Senate floor while members were having their annual group picture taken earlier this week, Leahy and Senate sources said Thursday.

The incident occurred on Tuesday in a terse discussion between the two that touched on politics, religion and money, Senate aides with knowledge of the encounter said.

According to aides, Leahy said hello to Cheney following the taking of the Senate group photo on the floor of the chamber.

Cheney, who as vice president is president of the Senate, then ripped into Leahy for the Democratic senator’s criticism this week of alleged war profiteering in Iraq by Halliburton, the oil services company that Cheney once ran.

Leahy and other Democrats have called for congressional hearings into whether the vice president helped the firm win lucrative contracts in Iraq after the U.S.-led war that toppled Saddam Hussein.

During their exchange, Leahy noted that Republicans had accused Democrats of being anti-Catholic because they are opposed to some of President Bush’s anti-abortion judges, the aides said.

Cheney then responded, “f--- off” or “f--- you,” two aides said, both speaking on condition of anonymity.

Leahy, D-Vt., confirmed that the confrontation took place but would not provide details.

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

Cheney’s office also wouldn’t go into detail, but confirmed the two men traded remarks.

“That doesn’t sound like language that the vice president would use, but there was a frank exchange of views,” said Kevin Kellems, a spokesman for Cheney.

According to Senate rules, profanity is not permitted in the chamber. But when the exchange occurred between Leahy and Cheney, the Senate was not in session, so there was technically no foul.

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