The debate over the nation's debt crisis turned ugly late Tuesday when GOP Rep. Allan West unleashed an email tirade on a Florida colleague after she trashed his support for a GOP budget bill on the House floor.
In an email promptly leaked to the press, West, a first-term tea party favorite from South Florida, trashed Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz for her "unprofessional and inappropriate sophomoric behavior" after she suggested he supported a plan the would raise costs for Medicare beneficiaries.
"Look, Debbie, I understand that after I departed the House floor you directed your floor speech comments directly towards me. Let me make myself perfectly clear, you want a personal fight, I am happy to oblige," West wrote, per ABC News. "You are the most vile, unprofessional and despicable member of the U.S. House of Representatives. If you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face, otherwise, shut the heck up. Focus on your own congressional district!"
West sent the email to Wasserman Schultz and copied several House leaders, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy.
"From this time forward, understand that I shall defend myself forthright against your heinous characterless behavior," West wrote. "You have proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady, therefore, (you) shall not be afforded due respect from me!"
West's office did not dispute the authenticity of the e-mail. A spokesman for West said in a statement to reporters that Wasserman Schultz's behavior was "unprofessional and cowardly."
Wasserman Schultz, who is chair of the Democratic National Committee, had taken to the House floor Tuesday to criticize the "cut, cap and balance" legislation that was ultimately approved by the GOP-led House, which she claimed would "end Medicare as we know it." While she did not mention West by name, she alluded to his support of the bill.
"The gentleman from Florida, who represents thousands of Medicare beneficiaries, as do I, is supportive of this plan that would increase costs for Medicare beneficiaries," she said of West. "Unbelievable from a member from South Florida."
The Florida Democrat gave no indication she plans to backtrack on her comments. In a statement emailed to reporters, Wasserman Schultz spokesman Jonathan Beeton said West is angry because the speech "highlighted that he and other Republicans are once again trying to balance the budget on the backs of seniors, children in the middle class."
"The truth hurts," Beeton said.
Another element that makes the West v. Wasserman Schultz showdown even more interesting: As the Miami Herald's Marc Caputo notes, the two lawmakers might have to run against each other in 2012 because of redistricting.