Sen. Bob Corker engaged in a blunt back-and-forth Thursday with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, further highlighting differences in Republican ideologies as cameras rolled and colleagues watched on the Senate floor.
The exchange, formally described as a "colloquy," lasted about 10 minutes.
Corker, who has been critical of methods employed by Cruz to stall procedure on a vote to fund the federal government, initiated the debate. Following a 21-hour, filibuster-style speech made by Cruz earlier this week, Corker asked his colleague if his intention in stalling Senate votes on the House government funding bill—which excludes funds marked for implementing the Affordable Care Act—was driven more by a personal desire to have "people across the country watch" a vote Friday than have a chance at "good policy."
Corker described efforts by Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, as "confusing." A deadline approaches for a possible shutdown of the federal government on Oct. 1.
"You want the American people and the outside groups that you've been in contact with to be able to watch us tomorrow," Corker said, addressing Cruz. "The reason we're waiting is that y'all have sent out releases and emails, and you want everybody to be able to watch. And it just doesn't seem to me that that's in our nation's interest."
The senator and former Chattanooga mayor's point was wrapped up in a context of Senate procedure. Under Senate rules, members of the Senate could hold a vote to end debate on the bill in its current form, which would take 60 votes to approve. But a vote to end debate would also open the door for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to hold post-cloture votes on amendments to the bill, which only need 51 votes to be approved.
Reid has already filed an amendment that would strip the current bill of any House-written language that defunds Obamacare.
Responding to Corker, Cruz argued that supporting a motion to end debate on the House bill would mean being "complicit" in allowing Reid to add funding back for the law.
"Anyone voting tomorrow in favor of cloture is voting to allow the majority leader to fund Obamacare," Cruz said, replying to Corker.
Corker agreed with Cruz that Senate rules allowed Reid to call for post-cloture votes but held his argument that a vote in favor of the House bill stood alone. The senator said Senate rules had been in place for decades and that stalling the process would only put more pressure on House leaders, who were already drafting new language in response to the anticipated amendment from Reid.
"They view this strategy as a box canyon because they understand Senate rules," Corker said, referring to House leaders whom he said he had spoken with earlier.
After 10 minutes, debate between the two senators was cut off because of a time limit.
Following the argument, Corker dismissed any suggestion that he had become angry with Cruz, saying he "enjoyed" the debate.
"I candidly enjoyed it very much," Corker was quoted saying in an update to a Washington Post report. "I think it's very commonplace, especially on an important bill like this that people care about, for people to be discussing tactics and the best way to end up with a good policy outcome, which obviously all Republicans want to see happen."
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