By Brendan Sasso - 05/21/13 02:44 PM EDT
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blasted his colleagues on Tuesday for holding a hearing to examine Apple's methods for avoiding taxes.
"I frankly think the committee should apologize to Apple," Paul said during a hearing of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
Paul said he was offended by the "tone and tenor of the hearing."
The subcommittee released a report on Monday that found that Apple has avoided billions of dollars in taxes in recent years through a network of offshore shell companies.
The investigators discovered that three of Apple's subsidiaries in Ireland had no official tax residence, meaning they paid little or no taxes to any government.
Apple CEO Tim Cook and two other top executives will testify before the committee. In prepared testimony, the tech giant denied that it had used “tax gimmicks” or improperly hid assets abroad to avoid paying taxes.
Paul said that Congress is to blame for the convoluted federal tax code.
"Instead of Apple executives, we should have brought in here today a giant mirror," he added.
Paul’s comments were reminiscent of Rep. Joe Barton's (R-Texas) apology to BP for a government "shakedown" following the company's massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the subcommittee, was visibly upset by Paul's statement.
"You're of course free to apologize if you wish, but that's not what this subcommittee is about," Levin shot back.
"Apple's a great company, but no company — no company — should be able to determine how much it's going to pay in taxes, how many profits they're going to keep offshore, how they're going to bring them back home, using all kinds of gimmicks to avoid paying the taxes to this country," Levin said.
He argued that by exploiting tax loopholes, Apple and other corporate giants are forcing the government to slash vital social programs and to increase the tax burden on other businesses.
Paul’s GOP colleague, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), also defended the Senate inquiry, calling it “offensive” for anyone to accuse Levin of bullying.
This story was last updated at 11:38 a.m.