Dave Clarke also contributed to this post.

Inside the Beltway, the ability to stay on message is a coveted trait. Politicians hate letting tough questions sidetrack them from their talking points. But it turns out they don’t particularly like it when others use the same tactic on them.

On Tuesday, Republicans blistered Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler at a Senate Banking Committee hearing, expressing frustration with his answers – or lack thereof.

In particular they  focused on why in early November Gensler opted to recuse himself from participating in all matters related to the collapse and investigation of brokerage firm MF Global. Gensler once worked under MF Global CEO Jon Corzine while the two were at Goldman Sachs, and he worked on the Sarbanes-Oxley Act while Corzine served on the Senate Banking Committee.

In a testy exchange with ranking Republican Richard Shelby, Gensler repeated that he recused himself so that he did not become a “distraction.”  Shelby was not having it.

Shelby: Did you recuse yourself because of your relationship, past or present, with the chairman of MF Global, Mr. Corzine?