NORWALK -- Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal charged in a U.S. Senate debate Thursday morning that at the height of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Republican Linda McMahon was advocating more offshore drilling.

The one-hour, televised confrontation before about 500 people started off on energy policy. McMahon said that Blumenthal's support of so-called cap-and-trade energy policy amounts to a "national energy" tax.

"I don't think the moratorium in the Gulf is prudent because it's costing jobs and sending them out of the United States," McMahon said.

"To accuse me of supporting a national energy tax is misleading," Blumenthal said, noting his successful campaigns defeated a natural-gas platform off of Guilford and another pipeline on the bed of Long Island Sound.

"My opponent said she would have had a hard time opposing Broadwater or Islander East," Blumenthal said during the debate in the Continental Manor here.

McMahon supported maintaining the Bush-era tax cuts set for expiration at the end of the year.

"My opponent wants to increase taxes, you know, on a greater area," she said. "$12.5 billion would leave this state and go to Washington. Until we create jobs in the private sector, we're not going to get out of this recession."

Blumenthal said "targeted tax cuts" for small business, not extending the cuts for the highest-earning two percent of the populace. "Targeted tax cuts are the way to provide the support that small business needs," he said, adding that a so-called buy-American program is important.

Blumenthal, responding to an attack from Linda McMahon on a nearly $900-million tax increase he voted for in the state Senate in 1989, said that during that same year, McMahon, a co-owner of the WWE pro-wrestling empire, was tipping off a doctor to an impending investigation into steroid use among wrestlers.

As the second half of the hour-long debate began, McMahon criticized Blumenthal for mischaracterizing a pending state audit of the WWE as "criminal" and again attacked him for saying several times in public addresses that he served in Vietnam, while in fact, he was with the Marine Corps Reserves in the United States.

Blumenthal, the state's top civil lawyer, said the active investigation by labor and tax officials into the WWE could indeed be potentially criminal.