WASHINGTON - In another sign of the tension among congressional Republicans, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker accused two of his GOP colleagues on Thursday of turning the fight over funding the federal government into "a show" and holding up a crucial vote so their supporters would have a chance to watch them on TV.
In unusually blunt terms, the Chattanooga Republican chided U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah during a debate on the Senate floor and said they were not acting in the nation's best interests.
"My two colleagues, who I respect, have sent out emails around the world and turned this into a show possibly, and therefore they want people around the world to watch them and others on the Senate floor," Corker said. "And that is taking priority over getting legislation back to the House so they could take action before the country's government shuts down."
He added, "It just doesn't seem to me that's in our national interest. Nor is it candidly in the interest of those who want to see good policy on the conservative side."
Congress has until midnight Monday to pass a short-term budget or the federal government will shut down.
A funding resolution passed by the U.S. House would keep the government running at current spending levels through December and would eliminate funding for President Barack Obama's signature health care reforms.
The Senate intends to pass the resolution but remove the provision that would defund the Affordable Care Act, sometimes known as "Obamacare." But Cruz and Lee and a handful of other tea party conservatives in the House insist the legislation include the language defunding the health reforms.
To drive home his point, Cruz staged a 21-hour talkfest on the Senate floor on Tuesday and Wednesday to delay action on the legislation.
With time running out, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried Thursday to move up another vote on the measure instead of waiting until Friday, when the vote had been planned. But Cruz and Lee objected, prompting the scolding from Corker.
"Is it more important to the senator from Texas and the senator from Utah that people around the country watch this vote or is it more important we have a good policy outcome?" Corker asked.
Cruz responded that Corker seemed "confused."
"When we told our constituents we oppose Obamacare, we meant it," Cruz said.
"So we are not going to be complicit in giving Harry Reid the ability to fund Obamacare."