Republicans vehemently opposed Democrats' efforts to have company executives sworn in before testifying, CNN reported.
Members of the Senate Commerce and Energy committees, meeting jointly, were preparing to hear from leaders of ExxonMobil Corp., ConocoPhillips, BP PLC and Shell Oil Co., when the jousting broke out.
The hearing was called because energy company profits jumped 62 percent in the third quarter to about $25.9 billion, driving the share prices of big oil companies up about 40 percent over year-earlier levels.
That, in turn, has led Democrats to call for reinstating a so-called windfall profits tax, as was implemented during Jimmy Carter's presidency.
Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., chairman of the Energy Committee, let it be known as the hearing began that he would oppose such a measure.